Sacrificially Speaking

A Knock on the Door was my response to the murder of thirteen members of our military in Afghanistan, August 26, 2021. I tried to share how hard it can be for those on both sides of the door when the party knocking has to relay the horrible news that a loved one is dead. Here, I want to follow up on the issue of pain with a thought about the way we label casualties, especially deaths like the thirteen servicemen and women mentioned above.

In these and many other cases, we hear the comment, “We need to remember them for their sacrifice.” If not that exact phrase, then a similar phrase using the term sacrifice. Words matter, and here, I want to call our use of the term sacrifice into question.

Words matter because they impact the way we remember tragedies. They matter because they may distort the reality of the disaster. They matter because they can provide cover for those who should bear at least some blame for the losses.

When speaking of those whose jobs place them in harm’s way, we often mention their sacrifices. Thanking the military, first responders, or frontline medical personnel for their sacrifices is appropriate and welcome, if sometimes embarrassing, to those we thank. To them, they are just doing their job.

Of course, they do make sacrifices to perform their jobs. They sacrifice many things most take for granted. They work long hours in dangerous situations. They are called upon to meet higher standards than many others, and they suffer the consequences of not meeting those expected standards.

Also, they sacrifice family time and family commitments because of their duties. Occasionally, they lose their lives while performing their duties. When they do, it is often said they sacrificed their lives for the good of others. Many times using the term “sacrificed” may be incorrect.

The thirteen service members murdered in Afghanistan did make sacrifices. They were making sacrifices by serving in a hell hole like the one in which they died. However, on the day they died, they did not sacrifice themselves.

Yes! They knew there were risks. Still, they did not volunteer for an extremely dangerous assignment. They followed orders. They did not report for duty, knowing they would die. They did not throw themselves on a grenade, tackle the suicide bomber trying to save others, or perform another action of intentional sacrifice. They might have, but there was no warning and no time.

Some may raise an eyebrow or clench their teeth while reading the last couple of paragraphs. They may wonder what difference it makes if they volunteered, followed orders, or died trying to stop the bomber. It makes a difference, and here is why.

Others sacrificed them! Their deaths were the result of decisions made by others. Their blood is on the hands of those in charge, from the local command to the Oval Office.*

The next time you hear that someone in the military, a first responder, or anyone on the frontline sacrificed themself, remember this. There is a difference between sacrificing oneself and being placed in a situation where you become a sacrifice.


*Wonder why I am so interested in calling out the misuse of the word sacrifice? In 1968 then President Johnson made changes in the way the war in Vietnam was being waged. Read Lest We Forget or Living With the Past to get a taste of how a decision in the Oval Office changed lives.

©oneoldcop: 2021

Posted in Daily Life, family, Leadership, National Defense, Patriotism, Police, Uncategorized, Veterans, Vietnam | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Between Clutter and Beauty

A writing “prompt” in an online writing course challenged interested parties “to run outside and take a picture of the first thing they saw.” Then we were to run back inside and take a picture of the second thing we saw. Of course, the final instruction was to write about the relationship between the two objects, scenes, whatever. So, here we are, and I’d be interested in what you think.

I had a threefold in participating in this little exercise. First, my education, from childhood to today, involved practicing situational awareness. Being aware of my surroundings was important as a teenage outdoorsman, a police officer with tactical training, and an investigator and security expert.

Second, I have lived in the same house in the same neighborhood for two decades. I don’t know where every blade of grass is or where all the bird nests. Still, I am very familiar with my surroundings.

Finally, I have a difficult time following prompts of this nature unless I can find a good reason for them. Still, I found value in most other prompts, so I gave it a try.

It is impossible to be surprised “running” out the back of our house unless you are blindfolded. Of course, running blindfolded would be extremely unwise. The back of the downstairs living area is all windows. I could see most of the outside before stepping out the door. I could see the flower pots, the shrubs, the patio, the porch, the outdoor furniture, the unkempt area of our neighbor’s yard, my flag pole, etc., before I could take a step.

Open for full effect.

One of our resident cardinals did jump out of a large shrub and fly into the brush next door. That was nothing noteworthy, but it did lead me to notice a huge spider web, with spider, hanging over part of the patio. Aha! Something new and noticeable.

Then I headed back into the house. Nothing jumped out at me, as noticeable until I took a breath and shifted gears. Then the refrigerator caught my attention. It is covered with mom and grandmom mementos. Voila! I had my two things.

I know. You’re wondering, what does a patio area with a spider web have to do with grandkid pictures, picture postcards, and the list of leftovers in the freezer. Just think about it for a moment before going on, given the title of the piece.

It is said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you believe that to be true, you need to accept the idea that one can say the same thing about clutter. Let’s start with the spider web.

Is it beautiful, or is it clutter? To my wife, it is clutter, but to a photographer in the right setting, it can be a beautiful object for the camera lens. This particular web was nothing special unless you appreciate the raw beauty of nature and the idea that a spider web is a small, if common, miracle of sorts.

As for the refrigerator, I have the same question. My wife has filled the space in our home with things of beauty and interest. Other than the room I use as a home office, our place is warm, welcoming, and beautiful in most visitors’ eyes. However, at least one almost got herself booted the only time she visited.

Her first comment, other than hello, as she walked from the front door to the family room was, “You’ve got a lot going on here.” In case you don’t understand snide southern remarks, that is not a compliment. I do not know if she commented on the refrigerator or the wall of photos in the family room, but I can almost hear the “tsk, tsk” under her breath.

To us, the pictures on the wall and the mementos on the refrigerator are fun, beautiful reminders of family, trips, and visits. Others might see them as something akin to walking into the spider web on the patio.

© oneoldcop – 2021

Posted in Daily Life, family, Family Vaules, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Of Gifts and Disappointment

The following question was posed recently as part of a writing challenge. Was there a special gift or toy you wanted as a child but never received? My first thought was something akin to, “Duh!” Then my introspective side kicked in, and I remembered something even more disappointing related to gifts.

In my childhood home, as in many homes, gift-giving included factoring in the age of the person receiving the gift. Many reading this, if many read it, will nod in agreement at this point. After all, manufacturer’s often label boxes with age ranges, and retailers offer online guidelines concerning appropriate toys for different ages.

As children grow older, sibling rivalry over gifts is not unknown, especially in cases such as mine. My younger brother and I were just over a year apart, which led my parents to treat us as twins for several years. They dressed us alike and acted as if we were equals in other ways until our DNA sequences led to me becoming the “big brother” chronologically, physically, and developmentally.

Truthfully, that was not much of a problem until I was in junior high school. Then some gifts and privileges were more appropriate for me than my much smaller, less mature younger brother. The first problem came when my folks told me I could not have a particular gift until I turned thirteen.

The gift in question was a CO2-powered six-shooter BB gun. We were big western movie fans, and our dad competed in quick draw competitions. That meant this was a BIG DEAL. I could start preparing for a real pistol and my turn at competitions.

On my birthday, I awoke expecting to be handed my first almost real handgun and holster. Mom and dad made us wait in our bedroom until they were up that morning. Then they came in. Dad smiled and handed me my six-shooter, belt, and holster.

I was in cowboy heaven on earth. My grin probably lit up the room enough people outside the house could have seen it if it were still dark. Then mom stepped up and gave my brother the same BB gun and holster. I guess the look on my face let my folks know I was a bit upset. They quickly started explaining why they gave us matching gifts on my birthday.

They didn’t think it was fair for my brother to wait another year for his gun. Also, the age thing wasn’t a problem because I would be with him to make certain he didn’t do anything dangerous.

So there I was. Not only did my kid brother get the same gift I had waited years for, but they saddled me with “big brother” responsibilities. Of course, that was just the beginning. From that point on, if age was involved, he got to the gift or gift of privilege at the same time I did.

When I received a real .22 caliber six-shooter, he got one at the same day time. When I was old enough to have a motorcycle for off-road use only, he got one as well. When they finally gave me permission to ride around on a weekend night in a slightly older friend’s car, guess who was sitting in the back seat.

© oneoldcop – 2021

Posted in Civility, family, Holidays, Manners, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Of Red Lights, Sirens, and Old Friends*

I was asked to interview some old-timers recently for a history book of sorts on police cars. At first, I wasn’t certain how I would handle it. Then I found one of my old squad cars was owned by a collector near me. That seemed like a good place to start, so I checked it out.

When I showed up at the showroom/museum, my old squad was sitting right in the middle of the room waiting for me. As I walked up, he hit his lightbar and chirped his siren—the same old Lee.

That’s right. Lee is his name. He is a 1976 Pontiac LeMans and does not look a day over ten years old, much less forty-five. The driver’s door was open, so I sat down and asked him how he was doing.

Being the wisecracker he’d always been, his response was not unexpected. “Well,” he said. “I think I’m doing a lot better than you, given the way you look.”

Hey, Lee. I thought we were friends.

“Friends! What do you mean, friends? You never liked me the whole time we worked together. You were always whining about how much roomier that old Plymouth was and how much faster he was.”

Hey, buddy. I was disappointed when they retired him, and I never held it against you that they downgraded the specs on police cars in the ’70s.

“See! There you go again, calling me downgraded! I did the best I could, and I was a lot faster than those taxi cabs Ford pushed off on police departments under the new standards.”

Yeah! Those Fords were something. I couldn’t chase down VW Bug in one of those things. For what it’s worth, you were a lot better looking than those boxy old Galaxies. Those things were tanks.

But, enough of the old days, let’s talk about what you’ve been doing since the department retired you.

“That’s right! You weren’t around much after you left patrol and got that desk job. In fact, I heard you resigned a few years later.”

Yes, I left the department and law enforcement for a time. But, this story is about you, not me. What happened after we quit working together?

“Well, things were okay for a while. I had a string of rookie partners who almost totaled me a couple of times, but I ended my patrol career in pretty good shape.”

Talking about shape, you do look good for someone closing in on fifty.

“I may look good now, but it wasn’t always that way.”

What do you mean?

“Man, once they took me off of patrol, they transferred me to Code Enforcement. Those guys were strange, and they treated me like I was a garbage truck. When they were through with me, I was worn out and thought certain I was headed to the scrap heap.”

What do you mean?

“Oh, they parked me at the back of the Physical Plant and just left me there. I ended up covered with dirt, and every pigeon in town used me for target practice. I thought I was done.”

What happened?

“One day, a bunch of teenagers showed up with a flatbed truck. They loaded me up and took me over to the high school. I became the shop class project. They fully restored me. I felt like new!”

“Once they were done, they auctioned me off as part of a fundraiser. That’s how I wound up here. I get treated like a celebrity, tool around town in parades, and have a good old time.”

The rest of our time together was just chit-chat, but I walked away feeling good about an old friend. Then, I got a real surprise. The collector let me know he thought it would be nice if I drove Lee in a parade or event sometime. I just had to promise not to say anything about Plymouths around him.


* In case you were wondering this bit of fantasy was written as part of a writing class and is being shared with classmates as well as others. However, as I found in researching the suggested format there are people who write or podcast in this format regularly. Here’s a link to one such offering: Everything is Alive

© oneoldcop – 2021

Posted in Daily Life, Entertainment, Journalism, Law Enforcement, Police, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Of Heroes and Unicorns

How would you respond if someone asked, “Who is your hero?” When the question was posed to me, my first thought was, I don’t have one. Then my analyzer side kicked in, and I wondered why that was the case.

The term hero is thrown around quite easily by many people. They talk about heroes in uniform, heroes in battle, heroes in sports, and heroes in love stories, to name a few. But, what is a hero?

Most would likely agree on the designation of hero for the first responders who rushed into the World Trade Center on 9-11. Likewise, the passengers and crew who forced Flight 93 to crash in Pennsylvania earned the title, as did many at the Pentagon. Yet, those tragedies, like Pearl Harbor, D-Day, Dunkirk, and others throughout history account for only a small percentage of those who might be called heroes in history, in legend, in family journals, and the sports news.

Over the decades, I observed and met “heroes” of one stripe or another. From local heroes to national heroes, I saw the good and the bad that came with the label and the gifts that led to that label. From those who dined with presidents to people who sometimes did not know when they would next eat, I watched them do both good and bad, sometimes being lauded and sometimes being damned.

Yes, that is a problem with heroes. Once they’re labeled, living up to the mantle is difficult, and many fail in time. So, what is a hero? Is it someone who does something heroic once, or does that person need to be super all the time?

Is someone a hero for rescuing a baby from an armed kidnapper? Yet, someone else is only a good samaritan for rushing onto a crowded roadway to save a child from the speeding traffic? What about the cop who tries valiantly to pull the driver from a burning car but only succeeds in scaring himself for life.

The reality seems to be somewhat akin to the title above. Heroes and heroism are both reality and myth. If not myth, at least in the eye of the beholder. Take the only person I can think of as a true hero at the moment.

He was a young man, just twenty-one years old. He never amounted to much as he grew up. He cared little for school, hated rules, and lived as much on the edge as he could in those days and at his age. Trying to avoid being drafted and sent to Vietnam, he earned a GED and enlisted, winding up in Germany.

True to form, he grew bored in Germany and volunteered for Vietnam. Less than a year later, he died in the mud defending his base and those within it from a surprise Viet Cong attack. He received a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, a military funeral, and his name on The Wall in Washington for his efforts.

He did not have to die that night. He could have stayed safely in his bunker, but that was not his way. He took the fight to the enemy and paid the ultimate price. He was a hero to those with whom he served. I know because I’ve spoken to some of them and read the after-action report.

Yes, to them, he was a hero. To me, my little brother. I still wonder what might have happened if he’d played it safe that night.

© oneoldcop – 2021

Posted in family, Family Vaules, Law Enforcement, National Defense, Patriotism, Police, Politics, Uncategorized, Veterans, Vietnam | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Knock on the Door

A knock on the door might seem a strange title in the days of doorbells and motion-activated door cameras. Still, there are times when a knock might be more appropriate, even more attention-getting, than a push of a button or a wave of a hand.

As this is being written, teams should have knocked on the doors of thirteen Blue Star families across the United States. The teams were in dress uniform and delivered a message no one wants to receive. I know that knock. I heard it in February 1969.

When I opened the door, two men in dress greens were standing there. They came to notify my mom that her youngest, my little brother, died in Vietnam. He and thirteen other young soldiers were killed on the same night from an attack on their airfield.

Thankfully, that was the only time I was on the family side of such a knock. Unfortunately, it is not the only time I was involved in such a notification. Luckily, I never had to tell a Blue Star family they were now a Gold Star family. Over the years, when I knocked on a door to deliver the message, the family often had no idea why I was there.

Families with relatives in combat or military situations know there is a risk their loved one will not make it home. Still, the news is hard to hear. A family sitting down for dinner or watching television is not prepared to have someone in uniform show up at their door. They are even less ready to hear that a loved one will never walk through that door again.

I don’t know which job would be worse, being part of the military notification detail or being a street cop obligated to deliver a message. I can promise you for the people opening the door; it is traumatic in either case. Knowing my brother might die in Vietnam did not help our mother one bit. She was devastated. I saw the same devastation and heartbreak in the eyes of those I had to notify over the years.

So, the point of this little bit of prose? The thirteen bodies being returned to the U. S. from Afghanistan are just the beginning. If the terrorists have their way, the body count will rise in Afghanistan and worldwide. Then, more families will be displaying a Gold Star banner, and others will simply mourn the loss of their loved ones.

I am not alone in worrying the body count will rise. Others feel the same way. Accordingly, I have a request. When you hear stories of soldiers and civilians killed in combat, by terrorists, or in horrible car crashes, by all means, pray for the families.

While you’re at it, pray for the person or persons knocking on the family’s door. The looks on the faces of those receiving the bad news takes a toll on the messenger. A toll felt for a long time.


Cemetery image courtesy of Pixabay

© oneoldcop – 2021

Posted in National Defense, Patriotism, Police, Uncategorized, Veterans, Vietnam | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Going Home Again…Worth the trip?

You’ve likely heard someone say, “You can’t go home again.” If you haven’t, you can find it in everything from country songs to a book by a famous author. In fact, an internet search found more than 4 million hits in under a second. If that was not enough, Pinterest has 180 pictures, wall-hangings, and what have you related to the phrase.

Preschool*

Of course, the underlying meaning of the thought is things will not be the same. Whether it is our memory of home or changes wrought by time and progress, the place we remember no longer exists. Still, we try, as I did a few months ago. Of course, in my case, there is another consideration, which home?

First Grade

I have a section in a book I am pretending to write titled “Urban Nomads.” That was the way my family lived as I was growing up.

We were nomads without the desert, camels, and tents. We had dogs, whatever car dad had the hots for at the moment, and a long string of rent houses. That is why my attempt to go home again took me someplace other than a house.

Third Grade

Some time ago, I thought of a place my family spent a good deal of time for a few years. It was not our home, but it was a place we enjoyed. Also, at the time, it was somewhat secluded. It was a bit like an extension of our backyard if our yard had been big enough to hold a small lake.

That little bit of heaven to us was named Lake Weatherford. Like most lakes in Texas, it was not formed by natural forces. Rather, someone decided they needed to store some water or avoid seasonal flooding, and one government agency or another built a dam.

Construction on the dam was completed in March 1957. I cannot tell you how long it took to go from a relatively small dammed-up river to a lake, but we showed up not long after it officially opened.

We had some great times there. It was out of the way, and the City of Weatherford was not that big. So, it was not heavily used. There were bigger, deeper lakes closer to where most people lived, and they were the ones with most of the amenities and activity areas. Still, for us, it was a great find.

The water was as clear as a swimming pool. It was so clear and clean; I could swim underwater with my eyes open and see well enough to adjust my waterskis or untangle the rope without ducking my head or lifting the rope out of the water. So, when I decided to visit the lake, I headed there with anticipation and memories.

After my visit, the answer to the title above was clear. Yes, I knew the lake would be different. I researched it not long before and found it had a park, a marina, and homes around it, all of which I expected. Progress happens, and some people love to live on or near the water. Still, it was a bit disappointing.

No, it was more than a bit disappointing. I drove entirely around the lake, looking for a place to stop. I wanted to take a picture or spend a minute gazing at the place where I’d had so much fun all those years ago.  Sadly, lake access for people like me is limited to trespassing, the marina, or Weatherford Lake Park.

That is the only park unless I missed something. It is on the northeast edge of the lake, and it is as far from the dam as they could go and still call it Lake Weatherford Park. It is also about as scenic as the edge of a swamp.

Yes, open water was visible, but mostly the park is on shallow water covered in lily pads and surrounded by trash trees. However, there is a “boardwalk” over the water one can use to get an up-close look at the swampy part.

Later, I discovered the “boardwalk” is something of which Weatherford is very proud. On that day, in my frame of mind, it looked like a bridge over nothing, leading to nowhere.**  

The saddest part of the experience was the water. I should not have been surprised because this is Texas. Many lakes are shallow and fed by water sources that bring dirt and debris every rainy season. The beautiful blue water from my youth only lives on in my memory.

Was it worth it? Yes, to a degree. It was nostalgic to visit a place my family enjoyed so much in the years we were a family instead of a clan divided. It was nice to drive around the twisty little road next to the lake and see the homes and small developments. Living on a lake has always been an unfulfilled dream, and it is nice to see others living their dreams.

Still, as the saying goes, you can’t go home again. Nothing there was the same, and my memories are all I have from those years. What more do any of us have but our memories?

We may have pictures or mementos of past times. We might have stories we can share with others such as this, but what matters is our memories. This little excursion helped me realize how special those memories can be.


*My brother and me, no idea who the young lady was. **To be fair, I have seen pictures of the boardwalk area when it looked much nicer than the day I visited.

© oneoldcop – 2021

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Free As A Bird

The first known use of the saying, “free as a bird,” was early in the 17th century, not 1967, when the Beatles popularized it in song. Yet, it has likely been one of those little bits of life humans longed for since prehistoric times when they marveled at the feathered creatures bringing beauty to the world.

If the term is new to you and you’ve never marveled at a hummingbird or longed to soar like an eagle, you probably need prayer or medication. Whatever the reality, I was recently reminded there are limitations, drawbacks, and downsides to everything, including the freedom of our feathered friends. Take the cardinals I photographed and shared from our little backyard sanctuary over the last few months.

These two have eaten our birdseed, entertained us, and hidden their nest from me for weeks. I did my best to determine where to see if I could snap some shots of the hatchlings, but this duo was too crafty for me. And then! They showed up with two young ones in tow and never stayed in one place long enough for me to get a family portrait. Still, even when they treated me like some stars treat the paparazzi, I was envious of their freedom and flight.

Then, one afternoon they were cavorting in the back with their spawn, thwarting my efforts to get a picture as usual. It was disappointing and exciting at the same time. The immature ones were chasing around, from feeder to holly, to feeder and tree, having a great time! That is, they were having a great time until a Texas thunderstorm burst onto the scene, and we were all running for cover. Me to my couch to watch a golf tournament and the birds to find someplace to hide from the hail, thunder, and soaking rain. Ah, yes, freedom! Maybe there is a price to pay for freedom.

As if the cardinals had not reminded me strongly enough that freedom has its limits and drawbacks, another of my feathered neighbors got my attention this morning. Several Mississippi Kites and a few hawks are frequenting our world, and one has been showing up regularly across the street.

It sits high on the top of a tree, scouting, and resting before taking off to hunt or just feel the air rushing around its body. On this day, at this time, it was not going anywhere. Another thunderstorm made its way through our little part of Texas, and the little hawk was drenched. As I watched, it regularly opened its wings a bit and spread the feathers. I assume this was an attempt to keep its wings from becoming too soaked and heavy. Whatever the reality, it was apparently not going anywhere until the rain ended.

So, the point to all of this? Well, it’s simple. There is a price for everything. Freedom does not come freely, and in some ways, it may be an illusion. Whatever the reality, be like my little neighbors, enjoy the good times, bear up through the rough times, and soar when you have the chance.

© oneoldcop – 2021

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Lest We Forget: Namesake

Lest We Forget was originally published on May 30, 2011. It was written in honor of my brother, David Jackson, and the men who died with him one night in Vietnam. This piece is a reminder and an update on David’s life, and celebrate the fact his name lives on through a great-nephew he never had the opportunity to know, Jackson David Long.

Spc. 5 David Jackson

Last week, Monday, May 24, 2021, marked fifty-two years and sixty-three days since Spec. 5 David Charles Marshall Jackson and thirteen other souls lay dead or dying in Cu Chi, Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam. It was also the day his namesake, graduated from high school.

Jackson is more than a namesake. In many ways, he is much like the great uncle he knows only through stories and memorabilia. Like David, he is adventurous, loves horses, and is a bit of a maverick, though a well-mannered maverick. Also, he is not quite the risk-taker David was, as far as I know at least.

On the other hand, he and his uncle would understand each other when it comes to the ladies. Both captured the heart of a slightly older woman before leaving high school. Where they differ is in goal setting and follow-through. Jackson has a career in mind and soon starts working and training in that field. David, as you will read below had a bit of a problem in school and planning his future.

David and the others who fell on that February day in 1969 were killed when Vietnamese forces overran their camp. The enemy sappers were successful, destroying 12 Chinook helicopters. Details of the firefight are hard to come by, but one source stated Specialist Jackson was actively engaged in the fight when he was felled.

David and his Company

David did not need to die on that dark February night. At least, he did not need to die in Vietnam. He started his military career in Germany. He could have stayed there and completed his enlistment there if he wished. However, David was never one to pass up a good fight, and he grew tired of the spit, polish, and boredom of serving in Europe. After a few months, he volunteered for Vietnam, setting boots on the ground April 9, 1968.

David came by his desire for change and action honestly. His childhood was, to say the least, a little unstable. While some folks live in the same house for most of their childhood, David and I did not have that luxury.

Our mom and dad were urban nomads. We roamed west Tarrant County, Texas like Bedouins in the Sahara. We pulled up stakes and moved every year or two. During the fourteen years David lived in Texas, we lived in Benbrook, Azle (twice), White Settlement (three times), Lake Worth and various locations in west Fort Worth.

It was hard to be bored around the Jackson home. If we were not packing and moving out, we were moving in and unpacking. Between moves, Dad did his best to keep things interesting by changing careers, changing interests and changing dreams like some people change shirts.

The result, in David’s case, was a lack of focus and a need for stimulation. This translated into any number of risky pursuits. David was a horseman, hunter, fighter and serious lady’s man by the time he was sixteen. If he was afraid of anything, he hid it well, and that lack of fear, and common sense, kept him in trouble most of his teenage years.

The beginning of the end for David was our parents’ split in 1964. David went with his father and his future stepmother. They moved to Indiana where David had been born and his father had family. David did not finish high school and settled for a GED. He enlisted in the Army to learn a skill or trade.  A few months later he was in Germany, by April 1968 he was in Vietnam.

Vietnam seemed to be good for David in some ways. He learned that risk taking, and an adrenaline rush are not the only things there are in life. Being David, he had to learn those lessons the hard way. If his letters and messages can be believed, he volunteered for every dangerous assignment that came along, almost paying the ultimate price for his adventures on more than one occasion.

However, his last few messages seemed to show he was growing up. They stressed how he was looking forward to settling down and having a career when he got home.

In February 1969 David was rotated to a base camp that was nominally safer than his normal post. On the night of February 26, 1969, David was twenty-eight days from returning home. He was secure in his base camp. He was miles from the front lines, such as they were in Vietnam. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese the camp was a safe area.

David was a little brother, a loving son and a man whose full potential was never realized.  May he and his comrades in arms continue to rest in peace.

© oneoldcop – 2021

Posted in National Defense, Patriotism, Uncategorized, Vietnam | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

God Help Us; Here come the Feds

During his 1984 campaign for President, Ronald Reagan reportedly made the following statement:

The most terrifying words in the English language are: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.”

That snarky little comment quickly became a running joke. T-shirt vendors, politicians, comedians, and others made hay with it until this very day.

While the comment was made for campaign purposes, there is truth in it. Politicians and bureaucrats seem to have a carpenter mentality. You know, the old saw about seeing every problem as a nail. Sadly, politicians apparently cannot tell the difference between a claw hammer and a sledgehammer. So, they break out the sledgehammer and destroy the thing they are attempting to fix. Take the latest example of the feds coming to our rescue.

April 21, 2021, the current United States Attorney General announced an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department. He promised to take action if the investigation found systemic problems within the training, policies, and procedures of MPD. He closed his remarks with this final statement, “Building trust between the community and law enforcement will take time and effort by all of us, but we undertake this task with determination and urgency, knowing that change cannot wait.”

His comments made it clear he believes, as do many others in the current administration, there is a problem with law enforcement. Regrettably, the new Attorney General and the rest of Washington seem to have forgotten one significant point. Either that or they choose to ignore the fact they or their predecessors played major roles in creating the conditions which led to the conflict we are witnessing today!

For the record, I am not saying Law enforcement, in the U. S. or anywhere else, was ever perfect. How could it be? Police officers, agents, deputies, investigators, or whatever a particular member of law enforcement is labeled, are human. Humans are flawed. Whether we are flawed by divine design or have not yet evolved to perfection we are flawed! So, everything we do, try or touch is flawed as well. This is true whether the human involved is the newest rookie in Punkin Junction PD or the occupant of the oval office.

Getting back to the Honorable Merrick Garland, 86th U. S. Attorney General, here is my problem with the ball he started rolling. Starting with the Minneapolis Department, he and Washington intend to carry out the so-called “reimagining of policing.” The truth is policing has been reimagined more than once over the past century or so, and every reimagining eventually led to the next reimagining.

In the early years of the last century, the federal government, with the help of some in academe, decided basic changes were needed to address the way law enforcement operated. It seems the police were too much a part of the community. I mean, after all, how objective and professional could one be walking the same beat in the same neighborhood all the time. Hell, you’d get to know everybody, and they’d get to know you.

All that fraternization could lead to subjective law enforcement, cops looking the other way when certain people did something, and in some cases, cops taking money to cover for or assist in malfeasance. Accordingly, the nation’s leaders decided a more professional police force was needed.

Professionalizing police departments led to putting more cops in cars. That way they could patrol larger areas, and they would not be as likely to fraternize with the locals. Of course, the cars were just one step. Other steps included rotating shifts and moving officers around regularly. That minimized the opportunity for bonding even more. Making cops more “professional” led to alienation and mistrust, which led eventually to another reimagining, community policing.

Suddenly, these standoffish, official-looking men and women were again supposed to establish rapport with the people they policed. Officers were encouraged to move into minority or problem neighborhoods to establish trust and understanding. Cops reached out via rap sessions and youth activities attempting to change the perception of law enforcement.

Of course, the Vietnam war and the hippy movement threw a monkey wrench into all of that rapport building. Still, the police did their best to become more understanding, educated, and “professional.” The results were less than satisfying.

There were demonstrations, riots, and property damage. Name-calling and threats were common. Tensions rose, to new levels of conflict. Between anti-Vietnam protestors, stoners, and the and groups that were forerunners to the groups on the streets today, chaos reigned. Police officers, like today, were not trusted. They were threatened, assaulted, and killed for simply doing their jobs. This led to some of the worst years yet seen in the history of law enforcement mortality. The worst was 1973. That year, more police officers were murdered while doing their jobs than any other year in modern times.

The situation became so bad, even the politicians realized something needed to be done. Getting out the sledgehammer, they funded and promoted changes in training, changes in equipment, and changes in the law. At the same time, police officers realized they were not being protected by their departments. Police unions began to grow and become political influencers. By the mid-1990s, the foundations had been laid for the problems faced today.

In a little more than two generations, law enforcement went from the neighborhood beat officer everyone knew to a tactical officer working the streets and equipped for battle.

The same parts of government now calling for the dramatic changes in policing helped develop, promote and pay for the training and equipment of modern-day law enforcement. The result of those changes makes police officers appear, and feel in some cases, more threatening than helpful.

Of course, AG Garland and his boss will fix that problem in the next 100 days or so. After all, as noted above, “change cannot wait.”

© oneoldcop – 2021

Posted in Civility, Daily Life, Law Enforcement, Leadership, Police, Uncategorized, Vietnam | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment