Friday, June 27, 2014

One Year Later: A Tribute to Officer Chad Davis

I love the old film noir movies from the 1940’s.  The bad guys are particularly evil and the good guys are real heroes. And in the noir movies, the moral is always the same…Crime does not pay.  The good guys win.   I know that is not real world.  But they are still enjoyable to watch.

One year ago tomorrow Officer Chad Davis with the Granbury Police Department heard the words on his radio that will send chills down any normal person’s spine.  “Shots fired. Officer down.”  He started down Hwy #4 to leave the city limits and assist deputies out in the county, where Hood County Sheriff’s deputy Sgt. Lance McLean had been shot.

Before he could get too far he observed a vehicle that fit the description of the van the alleged perpetrator was driving.  He turned around on the vehicle and made plans to initiate a felony stop. The driver of the van initially refused to comply.  Then the individual pulled into the parking lot of city hall just adjacent to the city square filled with Friday morning shoppers and tourists. He exited the van with a weapon and began shooting….

Chad stared evil in the face that morning.  As he did everything within his power to fulfill a commitment he had made many years ago.  He was sworn to protect and serve.  During the course of events Chad was shot in the shoulder by the suspect. 

Ultimately other officers arrived.  Sheriff Roger Deeds, Lt. Johnny Rose, and Lt. Lyn McDonald with the Hood County Sheriff’s Office along with Officer Garrett Wiginton with the Granbury Police Dept. and Trooper Thomas Anderson with the Texas Dept. of Public Safety stopped the threat.

In the old movies, the good guys get shot and return to full duty before the credits are run at the end of the show.  But that is not the case in real life.  Chad is still recuperating.  He is still going to physical therapy like clockwork on most week days.  He is still dealing with shrapnel in his knee.  And he is still confined to light duty in the office at the police department.

Chad is not one to draw a lot of attention to himself. He quietly investigates cases in the office.  He slips out to do physical therapy every afternoon. And he continues to be a good family man without a lot of fanfare.
It would be easy for us to forget….It would be easy for us to forget that he was among those that raced to Lance’s aid that fateful morning.  And the crowd of un-named citizens browsing the shops on the square that day are going about their lives on year later oblivious to the fact that an officer they will likely never meet could have very well saved their lives.

Do the good guys always win?  Not in this life…But over the past year, Chad has won victories that he is not even aware of.   His perseverance and kind spirit has inspired untold numbers of people.  He has inspired me not to become cynical and discouraged. I am thankful for Chad one year later. And I am reminded that good guys who are real heroes are not confined to the old movies.  They are my friends.   Chad is among the good guys. And he is among the real heroes.  Thank you Chad.  One year later it is fitting to say thank you.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

June 28th, 2014: The Hood County Law Enforcement Community One Year Later

This week in my counseling techniques class we are studying the idea of meaning.   Our textbook mentions that meaning issues become more prominent after a person has experienced a serious illness, encountered a life changing experience, or gone through a serious trauma.  I have experienced two of the three in the last year.  I have journeyed with my friends in law enforcement since June of last year during a life changing experienced triggered by a serious trauma.

Saturday is the one year marker.  June 28th, 2013.  I had traveled to Lubbock the day before to accompany my friends to take their daughter on a tour of Lubbock Christian University.  Her father is a police officer in Granbury.  LCU is my alma mater.  I felt she would be shortchanged unless I provided color commentary during the tour that the university provides.  I showed them around Lubbock the night before.  We got blizzards at the same Dairy Queen where I purchased vanilla cokes when I was “riding around” with my teenage friends in the 1970’s.  Our names are probably still carved in the booths somewhere. 

During the campus tour the next morning I received the call.  One of the deputies from the Hood County Sheriff’s office informed me that Lance McLean had been critically injured in a shooting.   He also indicated that city officer Chad Davis was seriously injured.  My friends could tell that that something was terribly wrong immediately.   The tour was over. The fun was over.  We quickly made our way back to the hotel and hurriedly packed.  It was going to be a long 4 hour trip home. None of us would be the same.

After arriving home, we joined dozens of law enforcement officers standing vigil in the intensive care waiting room at John Peter Smith Hospital in Ft. Worth.   I will never forget the kindness and hospitality extended by members of the Fort Worth Police Dept.  There was a somber tone among those that normally loved constant joking.  

Lance passed away the next day. By the day after that, we were making plans for a funeral that would  include all of the traditions characteristic of a law enforcement funeral.  We made plans for a service that we knew would be attended by hundreds of law enforcement officers from around the state.

Saturday is the one year marker.   I have learned a few things about meaning over these past 12 months.

  • I have learned that a sudden loss brings people together.   People that were just acquaintances have become friends. And existing friendships have been deepened.  I am blessed by new relationships.  
  • I have learned that everyone reacts differently.  Some internalize their grief.  Others are very verbal.  But no one in our law enforcement community has gone unaffected.  It is a journey and it is by no means over.
  • I have learned that true servants are not extinct. I have seen unselfish service over the past year in ways I can’t possibly put in words. These people know who they are. They continue to inspire me.
  • I have learned that the evil actions of one person cause untold collateral damage.  One man made a choice to instigate evil the morning Lane answered that call.   That man’s actions has created more emotional damage to people that I could possibly describe.  I am probably more aware than anyone in our community the extent of such emotional damage.  As the one year anniversary approaches, the emotional damage feels overwhelming at times.
  • Members of Lance's family have modeled courage, class, and dignity. Enough said. 

As the one year marker approaches this week, meaning issues remain prominent.  I continue to see a renewal in spiritual commitments, and a greater appreciation for each other.  And as  for me, I am grateful that I am called to minister.  I would not do anything else.  I find such a calling to be especially meaningful as the one year marker of Lance’s death approaches.  Serving people that have gone through a serious trauma is my real calling.  As crazy as it sounds, I find it meaningful.  So this week I will pray for continued healing and continue to love on my law enforcement friends. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

When Mother’s Day rolls around, those of us that preach on Sunday’s develop a sermon that honors the moms among us.  It is really not a day for preaching.  Some of my colleagues will even make use of syrupy poems or heartfelt stories.  And of course all Mother’s Day sermons are short.  We must get out moms out early, so they can be the first at the restaurant.  I have actually done all of the above.  I am all about honoring mothers.

But then Father’s Day follows in June.  The order of the day is much different.  Those of us that preach feel compelled to do just that on Father’s Day, but on steroids!  Father’s Day is a Sunday to preach about duty, responsibility, and the like.  Little thought is given to getting dad to his favorite restaurant ahead of the crowd.

This Sunday will be different.  As a beginning point, I am going to ask for a show of hands…How many people sitting out there were raised by GI Generation fathers?  And specifically, how many had dads that were veterans of WWII?   And how many were raised by members of the next generation?  Some of those men would be Korean War Veterans.  At the church I serve, there will be a fair number of men that raise their hands.

I will be among that group that raises their hand.  In 1944, my father was training to fly a bomber. He would be among those that would drop bombs in anticipation of an invasion of Japan to end the WWII.  Ultimately the decision to drop the atomic bomb ended the war.  My father and other members of his Army Air Corps squadron were allowed to go home before their training was completed.

Those men came home and started families. The baby boom was on!  They did not talk about their war experiences much.  They were not inclined to complain.  They just worked hard and tried to be responsible husbands and fathers.  In fact, their understanding of love was rooted in such activities. They viewed love as being equivalent to working hard and being responsible.  Consequently they were not the expressive types as a rule. They were not always overtly affectionate.  They were not always inclined to tell their children they loved them.  

At times, my generation has been hard on these fathers.  We resent the lack of affirmation and verbal expressions of love. And at times we have wondered if we were really valued and loved by these men that had such stoic leanings.  And some of us have even emulated their traits as we have raised our own children. 
I am going to honor fathers on this Father’s Day.  I am going to point out that the dads of the G.I. and Silent Generations really did love us.  We should be grateful for their dedication and responsibility.  We are still benefiting today from their commitments.  Now I do believe verbalizing love and approval is important. I could do much better in that department.  But this Sunday I will honor dads for their good traits.

 While my colleagues in town preach long sermons this Sunday calling their dads to duty, my dad’s will be taking their seats at their favorite restaurant. I think they deserve to get out early this Sunday. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Graduations are Emotional Experiences...

Graduations are emotional experiences.  They are particularly moving when it is your youngest child….Last week I watched my third son receive his high school diploma. Both the valedictorian and salutatorian are friends of his, so I listened intently.  He has been friends with one of them since third grade.   As I listened to their well-prepared speeches that reflected on aspirations for the future, I thought about another event I would attend the next day.

The day after graduation I was scheduled to attend a memorial service for a high school classmate that sat a few chairs away from me on a stormy night in May of 1980 as we received our high school diplomas from Monterey High School.  I immediately thought:  “if they only knew…”  If the kids walking across that commencement stage only knew that life can be unpredictable and short… I wanted to jump up and scream:  “Tell your friends NOW how much they mean to you!”  I chose to refrain. I really did not want to be arrested for disorderly conduct at my son’s graduation.

Mitchell and his circle of friends will likely go their separate ways.  Already plans are in place for them to attend a host of different universities.  Some will marry. Others will remain single.  A handful will stay in Granbury and others will choose to live overseas.  Many of them will have children in the not so distant future.  As the ceremony ended and final pictures were being taken with grandparents, I felt overwhelmingly sad.  I would leave early the next day to mourn the loss of a classmate and these graduates are about to disburse. I didn’t like that image in the least.  Something felt wrong.

As we waited outside the Ft. Worth Convention Center for our graduates, the grandmother of one of Mitchell’s closest friends shared some put things in perspective for me.  She said that she graduated from high school, married, and had children.  She had little contact with classmates during the years of raising kids. And then her children grew up and left home. A new chapter in life opened. She reunited with her childhood friends. They now gather on a regular basis.

I realized as she spoke that I am in that chapter in life at this very moment.  How fortunate I have been to reunite with classmates over the past 5 or 6 years. And I also realize now that we are at a stage in life when we need each other.  Several of my friends are caring for aging parents. Others are grieving over the recent loss of their parents.  And yes…we have lost some of our own.  We need each other.

 I will allow my son and his friends to relish this moment of celebration.  Someday they too will be in the chapter I am presently experiencing. There is a time for everything.  And for Mitchell’s class, perhaps it is a time for them to separate and explore the world.  But I hope they too will either stay in touch or one day reunite. They will need each other someday in ways they cannot possibly comprehend or articulate in commencement speeches.  So perhaps I should say to them: “Tell your friends NOW how much they mean to you!” 

 I feel at peace now thanks to the wisdom from someone a generation ahead of me.  I am ready to fully engage this chapter in life.  I plan to be love deeper and forgive quicker.  And I plan to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.  It is an important chapter in life.  
Graduations really are emotional experiences…