In my last column, I told you about my friend named Jim Higgins who served as a chaplin in Iraq. He was the recipient of six military commendations including the Bronze Star.
He told me yet another story about a close call. In the middle of the night, he was driving some soldiers to the other side of their base for their flight to Kuwait so they could go home. When he got them to Catfish Air, the klaxons (electronic horns) went off with the big voice announcing “incoming, incoming, incoming.” The soldiers sprinted for the nearest bunker and Jim floored his Humvee. The adage there was, “drive it like you stole it.” Indirect fire was exploding all around him and it was hard for him to see through the dust and debris, but he finally got through it while a C-RAM (counter rocket, artillery and motor) was firing 4,500 rounds a minute over his head. As it turned out, the truck that was traveling alongside him took a direct hit. That’s when he said to himself, “Well $?!%, that was close.”
Regularly, the job of police officers is dealing with everyday routines, but too often, they see people at their worst. One of the most tenacious hazards police officers face every day is the dangerous, erratic and lethal feature of the open road. Police officers dodge wrong-way drivers. They also dodge bullets, knives, fire, poison and flying objects hurled from fleeing cars.
During a war, it seems like it is okay to kill a human being who is shooting at you, but it is not okay during time of peace. We have heard many times on various media that, “The police didn’t need to kill him.” That seems to imply to me that it was okay if the thug killed the police officer. Is a police officer expected to stand still like a duck in a shooting gallery until a thug hits his mark?
It is often after the fact that a police officer or combat soldier senses fear. During the heat of the battle, the feeling is more about vulnerability than fear. When the proverbial waste hits the Westinghouse, training and instinct take command. Training and instinct tell police officers and soldiers to get out of the kill zone, return fire, move, then communicate to partners.
More than once, soldiers and police officers have experienced incidents that prompted them to contact a spouse to point out where the will and insurance policies were stashed. They wanted their children, family and friends to remember them as a fine public servant. Too often, that opportunity is not afforded to a soldier or police officer when the enemy or a common thug decides that their agenda is more important. It is a hole in the heart seeing a loved one in a body bag.
Police officers see first-hand the aftermath of people who are murdered. Every call for service they receive could possibly be an emergency and their last. They are expected to become involved, correct any problems and do it without showing any emotions.
They often feel like they regularly function in more than one position or role. They are often obligated to be an arbitrator, social worker and teacher as they try to correct problems at the same time they are required to enforce the law.
John Phillip Gingrey was the U.S. representative for Georgia’s 11th congressional district from 2003 to 2015. On Feb. 4, 2009, he said in part, “Now, today, the Marines limit rotation to seven months and the Army to 12 months. But Jim Higgins’ rotation in Iraq — a pretty tough place — was 18 months. Of course, he has this week, as has been said, been recognized as the United States Military Reserve Chaplain of the Year. So we really are indebted to this great man, not only for his spiritual leadership, Jim, but great service to your country.”
It is dedicated people like Jim Higgins, other soldiers and our police officers that help to make our country the great place that it is. Singer Lee Greenwood wrote a fantastic and realistic song that I have appreciated so many times. His lyrics are the perfect ending to this column. “I am proud to be an American … I will not forget the men who died who gave that right to me. And I gladly stand up, next to you and defend her still today, ‘cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land, God bless the USA.”