My parents were teenagers when they found out they were having me. My mom dropped out of high school and my dad enlisted in the Air Force.
This is not an easy path in life today nor was it for them back in the 70’s. They faced many obstacles, hurdles and sacrificed a great deal to provide for me and eventually my brother and sister. All the while they were still growing up with us.
I’ve known the life they led probably was not what they had dreamt of and much of it was due to the decision to keep me. My parents had options, abortion, adoption or keeping me. So because of their decision and sacrifices I am here today to write you my never quit story.
It is deeply rooted in the fact that I have known since I was a very young child that I was different from many kids. I was not different in special talents or abilities, but more so in emotional grounding that I obligated o live a great life to make sure my parents never regretted the decision. I would live everyday trying to do something that would make them proud and validate their choice.
I am now a retired police officer after a 21 year career and an US Air Force Veteran. The defining moment in my career and what has put me on my current path happened very early in my law enforcement career.
I was just out of field training and working patrol on my own, when a co-worker of mine radioed me to meet for a coffee break. As we were heading to the restaurant, a medical call came over the radio of an unconscious child. We were both nearby and went to the call knowing we would beat the ambulance the scene. When we got there, we saw a 3 year old laying unconscious on the ground as the large fence gate she had been climbing on fell over and crushed her. As we started doing CPR on her, your mind slows down and you notice everything. All the birthday streamers and balloons hung, indicating it was her birthday party. You hear the panic and screaming in the adults voices as they frantically search for answers and pointed fingers at who was to blame.
As we continued to perform CPR, I noticed this little girl looked to be about the same age as my oldest daughter. She had a beautiful olive complexion and eyes that would on most days be full of life were now empty. She vomited on us during our attempts to revive here and the was the last sign of life I ever saw from her again.
As the ambulance came and relieved us, rushing the little girl to the hospital, I did what most cops I knew would do and what I was trained to do. I went home, showered, changed uniforms and never again talked about the little girl dying in our arms. I went right back on shift and answered the remaining calls for service as if nothing had happened.
For over a decade and a relocation to a new agency and state, this call haunted me. Every time I heard a medical alert on the radio, I could feel my pulse increase, I would start sweating and I would do everything in my power to not be the closest person on the call. I would immediately see her face, smell the smells and be right back in her driveway.
This continued and I never talked about it until I started learning more about PTSD and it’s effects on the life of police officers and more importantly the dysfunction it caused. Higher than average divorce rates, alcoholism, suicide and sadly dying well before the national average.
As I progress in my career and became the coordinator in our new recruit academy, I thought back to my purpose of living a life my parents would be proud of. I began to realize that if I shared the impact of that call with my recruits and gave them positive outlets to handle the stresses, encouraged them to talk about calls that bothered them, I could help them. In doing so I could improve their lives, the lives of their families and start my own healing process.
I have now told that story thousands of times and each time I do, I still get emotional and I still see the images. At least now I am sharing it and allowing myself to feel all the emotions I had long hidden from view.
I have started my own law enforcement consulting company in which I teach officers life saving physical skills on the mats in conjunction with the life saving skills of how to handle the stresses. We talk about not being ok, admitting when we need help and seeking out those we can help.
In this new endeavor I know I am fulfilling my commitment to my parents to live a life worth living and know they are proud. I also get to help shape a new generation of law enforcement warriors capable of serving out communities yet also look out for their own emotional well being.
I thank you all for allowing me to share this story and would love an opportunity to speak with you more about it. You all are doing a great job of bringing communities together and removing the façade that all tough guys need to be tough 24/7. God bless you all and thanks so much! www.teamhardy.net