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Thread: Losing a good friend, the hard way

  1. #1
    Boolit Master

    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Colorado Springs, Colorado

    Losing a good friend, the hard way

    During this past week, I learned of the passing of a good friend. We worked together for quite a few years in a tough job, Law enforcement. When I met Tony, I was a veteran Officer, and he was a Veteran who became an Officer who served during Desert Storm. He was Navy and like every Seaman, he had great stories of shipboard antics.

    We only talked about his service a few times and he was proud to share. He was more proud to share of his young family, a topic we both shared more freely together. At the time I worked with Tony, I had transferred to the small town where we worked, he was born here, schooled here, enlisted here, came home to his high school sweetheart, and enjoyed being in rural Northern California. He enjoyed the beauty of the mountains, rivers, streams, and the ocean, all minutes away.

    Along the way, I promoted to Sergeant and he was one of my 'go to guys.' Actually, the groups men and women I worked with were all top shelf, hard workers, and I did my best to prepare them for the times when things might get a little 'rough.' I only had a couple of folks who tried to 'do the bare minimum to get by.' Although I did not serve, I worked along side many who did who taught me their message of 'you fight for the guy next to you.' It didn't matter which branch, they all said the same thing. Taking from that, I was able to use that to help motivate the lower level performers to step up with pride. Tony was one of those guys who helped motivate.

    Working in a large correctional facility, we knew who the good guys were, who the bad guys were, and where the guns weren't. Sometimes, we had to use our wits and our grit to restore order. When I knew things were going to get sideways I always asked if everyone was 100%, and would reassign the person who needed to be off to the side. Everyone knew they were not required to put themselves at risk every time and there was no shame in raising your hand nursing a hurt limb or a sore back. Since everyone was tight, the folks who were less than 100% didn't have to raise their hand because their partners knew, and stepped up so they wouldn't have to step back.

    We have all heard about the 'burden of command' and it is a huge consideration. During my 2 years as a Sergeant, and 15 years as a Lieutenant, I had 7 Officers whose career was shortened by injury with zero fatalities. I was Tony's Sergeant when I had to load 2 Officers in an ambulance, and have the third driven to the Hospital. Tony and another guy hurt his back, a third lady really screwed up her knee, requiring surgery. They all returned to work after recovery. All were offered 'lower impact assignments' until they were 100% again.

    Tony's back injury eventually became so painful he had to retire. 7 total retired with no fatalities. I can't say that anymore. Tony ended his life, not wanting to be a continued burden on his wife. I've lost count of the Officers I personally knew who after medical retirement couldn't take it anymore. I grew so weary of draping my badge for my brother and sister officers I had to stop attending the funerals. I have gotten to where I feel I can again.

    In our agency attending in uniform while retired is allowed. I would have attended a memorial for Tony, but his wife requested that one not be held in his honor. We are collectively honoring Tony in small groups, some just a beer on the tailgate, a trip fishing, a breakfast. A lot of the Christians from work already meet every Thursday morning. Of course it is actually non-denominational, with several who attend who believe more in each other than an actual higher entity. There's actually not a lot of preaching beyond prayer for the meal, it is really an open invite to meet with friends outside the 'salt mine.'

    For those who have served our Military, our Fire Fighters, Medical First Responders, and Law Enforcement, have all lost brothers and sisters. Some in the line of duty, but too many after their duty is complete and at their own hand. There is a huge push within every type of First Responder Agency to provide professional counselling or trained informal counselors to help folks deal with difficult times. Although retired, I still get calls from folks who need help, and calls from folks checking to see how I am doing.

    I am here to tell you that getting calls and texts from former co-workers and fellow retirees has more value than you know. Every county has a Department of Mental Health, Churches, Support Groups, and fellowship groups. Each are listed online or in the local phone book. Help is there for folks in need and folks appreciate the 'checking on you' call or message as validation of the recipient's continued value as a friend and to encourage them to do the same.

    Have the courage to make those calls, send those messages, continue to let folks know you care. Sometimes it might be a call at 2AM which leads to coffee and pie at the all night diner. Hopefully, it's not a call after the fact when there is nothing you can do for the lost, but you can still support the person who reached out to make that tough call. Make those calls. May God provide comfort for Tony's wife and family, his family of friends.

    I've got some calls to make.
    Common sense Gun Safety . . .

    Is taught at the Range!

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    May 2007
    It's the tough side of the job. In my time on the job we lost 13 to LOD deaths - some friends and some unknown personally to me - , plus a few to non-LOD murder, DWI, suicide, etc. Each one is felt and remembered. Like Winston said, KBO.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master

    buckwheatpaul's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    fcvan, Over 35 years L.E. I have buried so many friends I had to quit going to funerals as well. Sir you and Tony's family have my prayers for God to grant you all peace, comfort, and fond memories.
    When guns are outlawed only criminals and the government will have them and at that time I will see very little difference in either!

    "Within the covers of the Bible are the answers for all the problems man faces." President Ronald Reagan

    "We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the law breaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is acoutable for his actions." Presdent Ronald Reagan

  4. #4
    Boolit Master

    Winger Ed.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Just outside Gun Barrel City, Texas
    Sorry to hear this.
    I'd had 3 friends who were fellow vets, and whose last act on earth was pulling a trigger.
    I still miss them every day.
    It wasn't playing the blame game, finding fault, and complaining about every little thing that made America great.
    It was God, guns, and guts.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master

    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Way up in the Cascades
    fcvan-- I read your post, and sat here for at least 10 minutes trying to think of something I could say, perhaps to offer comfort. I'm a retired LEO, lost brother officers, and understand the lasting pain that goes with that experience. Somehow, although usually verbose, I'm at a loss as to what to say, except that I'm sorry. Sorry for all involved. My deepest sympathies.

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