Wednesday, November 29, 2006


"Chesapeake 54...Chesapeake 54...Chesapeake 54...10-4, Chesapeake 54, 10-7. Ending tour of duty. Rest in peace Trooper Hill".
I heard the dispatcher's voice echo off the tall pines there in that cemetery. My hand shook as I saluted a man whom I'd never met, yet whom I respected more than most. I began to cry. Trooper Hill did not die in a hail of gunfire in the midst of a shootout. He was not serving a high-risk warrant when he died. No, Trooper Hill was killed while issuing a motorist a traffic summons for a motor vehicle infraction.
Let me say that I believe there are some things in life that we are not suppose to understand. Trooper Hill's funeral reminded me of something that I cannot even begin to fathom. Bear with me as this may very well turn out to be something A) very difficult to clearly explain, and B) better left unsaid. But I wondered as I stood there saluting this hero, was he afraid of death? While I was in Iraq, I came to terms with (in my mind) the reality that I was not going to come home. I lost my fear of death. I was shot at more times than I can remember. I still hear the rounds cracking off the mortar blocks above my head. I left houses moments before they were leveled. I had suicide bombers drive vehicles within a stones-throw from me and disappear in a ball of flames. I saw Humvees ahead of me in a convoy rise three stories in the air after they drove over pressure plates connected to 155mm explosive rounds. I lost friends who were standing where I was suppose to be but wasn't as the result of a literal flip of a coin. I stopped looking down at the ground as I walked down the streets on missions. I simply could not function with a fear of dying. So I lost it. It was the only way to function. It was the only way I could accomplish my mission. I embraced the fact that my wife and family were going to see me in a flag-draped casket.
And standing there in that field surrounded by tombstones, I wondered if Trooper Hill accepted the reality that his job was going to take his life? Did he look down when he walked? Was route 58 his Al Anbar Province? And while the timing will catch us all by surprise, was Trooper Hill ready to die? I am surrounded everyday, by people who would as soon shoot me as they would wave at me. Why? Because I am the sheepdog and they are the wolves; I defend those who cannot at times, defend themselves. Do I want to die? Of course not. I want to see my two daughters grow up and marry some ratbags who are not even close to being worthy of them. But whether you can understand it or not, while I do not want to, I have absolutely no fear of dying. How could I do my job if I feared dying? How could I storm a school full of armed subjects in an attempt to rescue your child if I was afraid of dying? How could I confront the drug dealer on your street corner if I was afraid of dying? How could I run into the burning house to snatch your family out in the middle of the night if I were afraid of dying? I couldn't, and therefore could not uphold the oath that I swore to. While I do not claim to be half the man that Trooper Hill was, I believe that he and I probably had some things in common. Our lives, by virtue of our badge, become secondary to the safety of the citizens whom we serve.
So the next time you see a Police Officer, please take a moment and understand that more than likely, you are looking at a man/woman who probably doesn't know you, but would at the drop of a hat, risk his/her life to defend yours. Trooper Hill did, and I would too.


Barb said...

That was well worth saying, and had to be difficult to put into words - yet I understood every bit. I can't *know* how that felt, but it makes perfect sense as you describe it.

Thank goodness for men like Trooper Hill. He may not have walked out the door that morning thinking, as you did in Al Anbar, that your number might be up that day. But he knew the risks, and put on the uniform, against the day he could stand between the wolves and the sheep. His death is no less sorrowful to his family than if he had been gunned down, and his honor is undiminished by its nature. We all die - it is how we live that counts.

A somber but beautiful post, A.S. - Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Courage is endurance for one moment more…
Unknown Marine Second Lieutenant in Vietnam