“Thank you for your service.”
It’s such a simple sentence. Only five words. Takes less than two seconds to speak.
And yet to someone who puts his or her life on the line every. single. day. so that you and I can live in relative safety and freedom and blissful ignorance… it means the world.
Often we think of that phrase in regards to the military— thanking them for what they do on the battlefield and abroad every day. And I wholeheartedly believe in continuing to say that to any veteran or active duty soldier that I meet for the rest of my life. In fact, I will be attending a Memorial Day service on Monday to honor fallen heroes and to thank those who made it out alive. It is very important to me to express gratitude — especially when folks I don’t even know choose to put their own life in danger for my children’s sake. Regardless of politics, the fact of the matter is that a huge part of the reason my kids and I are able to walk down Main Street and grab a frozen yogurt, and then go play at the park whenever we want to… and the fact that I can go to church and own a Bible and not fear for my life every day… and the fact that I am allowed to post whatever I want on this blog of mine without fear of governmental opposition… is in huge part due to the fact that a countless number of men and women for the last few hundred years have fought and bled and sometimes even died so that I could live my innocent, carefree, “small but good” life.
“Driven by a fire that burns within them to defend their brothers, their sisters, their neighbors, and their nation, [these soldiers] volunteered to stand in a dangerous place in the world and offer themselves as expendable.” ~Service: A Navy SEAL at War by Marcus Luttrell
And I am thankful for them and all they have done.
I am also thankful for the men and women who fight right here in my own backyard day after day and night after night, to help me and my family live as safe and as peaceful a life as is possible.
Police officers are unsung heroes.
Because cops exist and are out there doing their jobs, most of us are able to live in general oblivion to the surplus of evils in the world around us. Because they are out there hunting for predators, users and abusers; because they have offered to interact with the creepy guy in front of my house, the pedophile who hurt my friend, the addict that broke into my grandma’s friend’s house… I don’t have to.
Because they have agreed to wake up at 2am for a SWAT callout, to go face down the Occupy mob in downtown Oakland, to go tackle the man who just beat the crap out of his own mother and then ran away, to go capture the man who possesses several firearms and just killed a dude at a gangster party… I don’t have to.
Because they are willing to endure the physical and psychological trauma of being in high-adrenaline, life-threatening, even disgusting human-on-human situations… I don’t have to.
Most police officers will encounter more traumatic and dangerous and evil situations in the first 3-5 years of their career than most of us will ever see in our entire life.
If you’ve never heard of the term “hypervigilance,” it is “the necessary manner of viewing the world from a threat-based perspective, having the mindset to see the events unfolding as potentially hazardous,” says Kevin Gilmartin, Ph.D in Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement (35). And it is something every officer needs to incorporate in their daily lives if they want to go home at the end of each work day. For police officers, “all situations are potentially lethal; all situations require attention, alertness, involvement, and quick intellectual assessment of the situation. All on-duty encounters require hypervigilance” (41). To them, “it is better to approach a harmless situation prepared for risk than to approach the lethal situation unprepared. Experienced police officers know that it is important to err on the side of perceptual preparedness rather than perceptual laziness” (34).
What they do is hard. It isn’t for the weak-minded, the weak-willed, or the faint of heart.
And they deserve our thanks.
I saw a police officer eating at a burger joint a few weeks back and, as I was walking out the door with my three kids in tow, I made eye contact with him and said “Thank you for your service, sir.” Flustered, but very clearly grateful for my statement, he scrambled for a response: “Oh, uh, yeah… yes. Thank you,” he fumbled out.
I told my cop husband about that the other night and I said “I guess you guys don’t hear that very much, huh?”
“Try never,” he answered a bit dispiritedly.
It’s rough, this life of a police officer. While of course there are some officers who are lazy or self-centered or racist or disrespectful or overly-quick-to-anger, I will venture to say that that is not the majority. So many of the cops I encounter, know, or am related to are simply good-intentioned, good-hearted, courageous men and women who genuinely want to serve and protect the good and innocent folks in their community.
They are brave, strong, intelligent, self-controlled, hard-working, self-sacrificing, quick-witted, down-to-earth people who love their families and want the homes, neighborhoods and lives of their loved ones to remain as safe and carefree as possible.
They’re doing their best. And they just want to help their communities in whatever ways they can.
So, thank you, men and women in blue.
Thank you for doing one of the most stressful jobs on the planet. Thank you for loving your families and for caring about others around you.
Thank you for your service.
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What about you?
How do you thank folks who sacrifice their time and energy for you or your family’s sake? Can you share with me any creative ways you show your gratitude?
Please feel free to share your journey in the comment section below.