September 11th – Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat

You never know the biggest day of your life is the biggest day. Not until it’s happening. You don’t recognize the biggest day of your life, not until you’re right in the middle of it. The day you commit to something or someone. The day you get your heart broken. The day you meet your soul mate. The day you realize there’s not enough time, because you wanna live forever. Those are the biggest days. The perfect days. – Izzie Stevens, Grey’s Anatomy

September 11th. No one even needs to explain the hurt, pain, tragedy, fear or vulnerability. We lost just under 3000 citizens that day. We lost 343 Firefighters, 73 Law Enforcement officers, 1 chaplain, and other EMT’s, nurses, and other responders. We were undefeatable at home, or so we thought. To say it was a horrible day is an understatement.

However, there were good things that happened that day too. We joined together as a nation. We put aside our differences and stood up with one voice. We put aside out politics and stood on the steps of the Capital and sang “God Bless America”. We were Americans. We take the bad and keep going. We fight for what is right. We stand up for the defenseless. We experienced (no matter how brief) a sense of unity.

But personally, that day was huge for me. September 11, 2008 was the day that I decided to stand up for first responders. In 2008, during one of the moments of silence, a deep sence of appreciation for first responders swept over me. It started a chain of events that changed my life, and continues to do so even to this day. That evening I called the Huber Heights Police and asked the dispatcher (I didn’t have permission so I won’t mention her name, but I will never forget it) if she could let the officers and fire fighters know my that “a citizen of Huber Heights appreciated them being there.” I was informed that she had not had that request in over 13 years. So that’s when I decided that I would reach as many as I could and let them know they are cared about. Since then I’ve talked (in person and via email) to officers and firefighters from all over the country. I keep every email response and cherish them all. I’ve made some great friends, who I would have never known otherwise. My desire to just reach out to these people has changed me forever. I found MY place in the world.

But another major event happened, on the exact day of the tragedy. 9/11/2001 was my first date with a wonderful woman who, in less that a year, would become my wife. We talked on the phone a few times throughout the day. She asked if II wanted to postpone coming over. We didn’t. I thought that those people who gave so much would be happy that I found love. We ate together. We cried together. We held each other. Thirteen years later, we are still together. She’s supported me, even what at times she did not understand. She kept things running at home when I helped out in Kentucky after the tornadoes. She’s been a rock at times when I needed it. She’s put up with my craziness and immaturity. It’s been hard sometimes, I’m not going to lie to you. We’ve had our share of ups and downs. But we’re still hanging in there together. So I say it publicly and unashamed – I love my wife.

So today, take time to grieve what we’ve lost. Take time to remember those who gave their all. Take time to be with your families. Then get ready to “saddle up”, because America’s brighter days are still ahead. But we have work to do.

Please distribute to all Law Enforcement, Paramedic and Fire personnel – 9/11/2014

Distribution: Please distribute to all Law Enforcement, Paramedic and Fire personnel

First, I want to say another thank you to everyone who has made it possible for me to distribute this message. I can not express my gratitude enough for your assistance.

As I write this, Patriot Day is two weeks away. It is a day or remembrance for what we lost in the attacks on 9/11. Just under 3000 people lost their lives that day. 343 firefighters, 70 officers of the NYPD and PAPD, 8 private EMT’s and a K9 gave their lives that day and over 75 more since then due to “9/11 related illness”.

From time to time we all battle the “us versus them” feeling. Sometimes it’s when a shooting makes the national news. Sometimes it’s when we are trying to get enough funding to ensure we can operate safely and provide the best service we can. Sometimes, you just have a long day and wonder “does it really matter?” And that’s just the external weights that come with the job. I read an article by a nurse and thought an excerpt really applies here:

But I’m not alone. And it’s the people by my side that make me feel normal about this chaos that we live in. This peephole into reality, that only a few of us see… What choice do we have? This is our job. This is our life. Even if we quit it, it’s too late. Once you peep through that hole, you can’t pretend you haven’t seen it.

As Public Safety personnel, that is who we are. We battle the evil, we take the fight to the darkness, we stop destruction and we stop the bleeding. When I first started this in 2008, I thought the reason that you are awesome was because you battle the evil. But now I see, the battle is not what makes you awesome. What makes you awesome is that you get up, and do it. You help others fight the same fight. You share with others the tools you have. You go home, get rest and then you get up, and do it all again. You are the person by someone’s side, helping them feel normal in the midst of chaos. I’ve seen as you help that 90-year-old woman who never had an accident process what just happened. I’ve listened to how you feel about all the “politics”. I’ve been in the car weaving in and out of traffic so you can get there to save someone. I’ve seen how you keep that elderly person with dementia calm while we wait for medics to take her to the hospital. I’ve seen how you bandage the kid who was just the victim of the hit and run and tell him he is going to be OK and tell his parents that you “will find the person who did this.” You’ve stopped to make sure that Doc here is up to speed and is not in the dark.

So you may feel like you’re in a war. You may feel tired, or unimportant, or like giving up. I Just ask that you keep on going. You do more good that you realize and it matters to more people than you think. Really.

Thanks for reading, stay safe, and contact me if I can help you.

I’ve said it in every email. I’ve said it to the chiefs and administrators when I contact them. You all are heroes. I don’t know how often you hear it, but I’m certain it’s not nearly enough.

Doc’s thoughts on suicide.

DISCLAIMER: If you are contemplating suicide, please call the Suicide Help line at 1-800-273-8255.

I am going to discuss a subject that no one likes to talk about. And relate it to a group that most people prefer to shun or ignore. And let you in on a dark secret I’ve held in my heart and a fight I’ve waged from before. This may be a hard read (and I am sure it will be a hard WRITE), but sometimes we have to speak up and “strike while the iron is hot” so to speak.

By this point, I am sure that you have heard about the death of Robin Williams. How he died too young (63), the impact he had made, or about the times that something he did deeply impacted someone’s life. One that got me moving early on was a line from Dead Poet’s Society “Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Do not be resigned to that. Break out! “

You’re going to hear a lot of commentators talk about depression, mental illness and how they relate to suicide and how they are different. But I’m not going to get to in depth in those areas. You may hear theological debates on “if it’s forgivable” or something like that. I’m not going there either. Determining who gets into Heaven is above my pay grade. What I do want to point out is the “peace” (or lack thereof) that comes with suicide.

I want to say that there is no “peace” in suicide. If you do not believe that, ask the survivors – the family and friends of those who took their own life. They have so many questions, and most they will never have an answer for. There is guilt (“Maybe I could have stopped it”, “If they had just told me”). In addition to the other normal emotions during a time of loss, there is a regret that they did not get to say their goodbyes.

And I’m sure that you have guessed the “group that most people prefer to shun or ignore” is the Law Enforcement community. According to statistics, an officer is 2-5 times more likely to be killed by themselves than they are by a suspect. They also tell us that over 30% of officers have thought about suicide at some point in their career, and that an officer is twice as likely to commit suicide on the night shift than any other shift.
We in the Miami Valley are not immune from these trends, having had one locally in the last few months. So how do we turn the tide?

1. Never assume that anyone is immune to it. Who thought Robin Williams would have taken his own life?
2. Know the signs of distress. If someone is openly talking about it, TAKE IT SERIOUSLY.
3. If you (or someone you know) needs help, SEEK IT!

Let’s not allow this tragedy to be in vain. We watch out for each other on duty all the time. Watch out for this too.

Some of you may be thinking about it now. Life isn’t “worth it” anymore. No one cares about you. Your spouse is not speaking to you. You are “at the end of your rope”. One of my instructors in Bible School told this story.
Several years ago, my brother was allowed to witness an open-heart surgery. During the procedure, the patient’s heart had been stopped from beating. When it came time to restart it, despite repeated attempts, the medical staff was unable to cause the heart to beat again. Finally, although the patient was obviously unconscious, the surgeon leaned over and spoke into the patient’s ear, “We need your help. We cannot get your heart restarted. Tell your heart to start beating.” Incredibly, in that instant, the patient’s heart began to beat again!

Here is the dark secret I promised. At one point in my own life I have experienced some what I would call “mild depression”, and even thought about “ending it all”. (Do not be alarmed, it hasn’t been recently). And up until now I never really shared that with anyone. I was afraid of what people would think or what would happen I guess. But I’m a stronger person today thanks in part to those experiences, which is one of the reasons that the subject is still a soft spot in my heart.

So if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, talk to someone. You CAN be happy again. You CAN live life to the fullest. You can touch others with your story. You can tell your heart to “beat again”. So live! Reach out!
If I can help you in any way, contact me!

DISCLAIMER: If you are currently contemplating suicide, please call the Suicide Help line at 1-800-273-8255.

Please distribute to all Law Enforcement, Paramedic and Fire personnel: Happy Fourth of July

First let me apologize for the lateness of this message. As always, I want to say a big thank you to all who has made it possible for me to distribute this message. I cannot express my gratitude enough for your assistance. I also want to thank each of you reading this. It’s always my goal that something said in these notes will encourage, inspire or uplift you in some way. I know you’re busy and you do a lot to get ready for your shift. So thank you for reading.

As we near the Fourth of July, Independence Day here in America, we take time to remember the sacrifices of those before us. Those who pledged “to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” Writing some years after the events of the Revolutionary War, John Quincy Adams wrote, “Posterity, you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.”

But for those of us in and around public safety, we know that lots of people are not making “good use of it.” There are humans inflicting all manner of evil on each other and sometimes we feel as if we are not accomplishing anything. Not to mention storms and natural disasters. Sometimes we get “weary in well doing”. Sometimes we think we are not making a difference. Sometimes we almost give up. I know what that feels like.

I just finished World War Z with my son. It was a good movie, but I think I have a theory. It’s not zombies or smallpox or aliens or some weather disaster that will cause the world to disintegrate into chaos. I think it is growing darker as people care less. It grows darker as people stop looking out for each other. It grows darker as we hide in fear or self-preservation, or the less we speak out for truth, good, and justice. It grows darker as WE grow darker.

So what do we do? I know that you are out there “fighting the good fight”. Please know, I don’t say this lightly. I say this to some of the strongest people I know. I say it for people who I have seen with my own eyes fight all kinds of evil for a fellow officer, EMT, or firefighter. I just ask that you take courage and fight just a little harder. Fight for each other. Fight for what is right. Keep up that fight! Keep marching toward evil and fighting back the darkness! Are you tired? Feel hopeless? Reach out to a brother or sister. Reach out to a supervisor, chief or Chaplain. But whatever you do, don’t give up and don’t give in. If you need help, ASK. If you can give help, SPEAK UP.

That is what can change our world for the better. We are in this together.

In closing, as always, thank you so much for all you do. I’ve said it before and will say it again, you all are heroes. I don’t know how often you hear it, but I’m certain it’s not nearly enough.

Police Week 2014 – Prayer points

Each year I post some prayer thoughts for Police Week. Most of this is taken from a note I did in 2012, but added some modifications each year. For all my law enforcement friends, spouses, and Chaplains: If you think of anything to add, let me know!

I’m asking all my friends to pray for our Police Officers this week more than any other. May 11-17 this year is Police Week. It was designated by President Kennedy in “recognition of the service given by the men and women who, night and day, stand guard in our midst to protect us through enforcement of our laws”. I’ve listed some “prayer targets” for each day. This is a work in progress, so as I find things or as other officers give me suggestions, I’ll update the list. Also, you will see some action “ideas”. The book of James tells us that “faith without works is dead.” So do something. Get involved. Be kind. Make a difference.

Romans 13:1-4 tells us “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.”

Saturday 10th-Sunday 11th – Safe trips to DC, local memorials

Monday 12th – Community support for officers
-Prayer targets:
— Officers would be honored in the communities they serve.
– Officers would not be hated for doing their job-upholding the law and correcting law-breakers.
-Ideas:
— Officers love simple tokens of appreciation. By their lunch when one is in the drive-thru behind you.
– When you see businesses giving officer discounts, let the manager/owner know that you appreciate that.
– Get involved. Call/visit your local police department (during business hours) and ask them what you can do to help.
– Post blue lights in your windows to show your respect for officers.
– Join/start a neighborhood watch.
– Greet them when you see them in public.

Tuesday 13th – Officer Safety
-Prayer targets:
— That no department would have to choose something else over officer safety due to small budgets.
– Officers would have wisdom and safety in all situations.
– Pray Isaiah 54:17 -No weapon formed against them shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against them in judgment will be condemned.
-Ideas:
— Have your house number in a location where it can be seen in the event they need to respond to you.
– Only use 911 in cases of emergency.
– If you are stopped pull over as far to the right as possible so that, when the officer comes up to your widow, he or she won’t have to worry about being clipped by vehicles in the right lane.
– Do NOT get out of your car unless the officer asks you to do so.
– If a police car is coming behind you with its siren blaring or emergency lights flashing, pull over to the right safely and quickly.

Wednesday 14th – Officer families
Note: Officers have a higher rate of divorce than the general public.
-Prayer targets:
— That the families might know peace when their loved ones are on duty.
– That the families have understanding when the officer they love is under stress.
– That officers would be able to separate work and home, and that their families can support them in times of stress, and know that their stress is not directed to them.
-Ideas:
— If you are fortunate enough to know a police officer, offer to babysit while they go out with their wives.
– If you know an officer and you can see he is having a rough time, just be available. They don’t have to tell you what’s going on, but they may need someone to talk to.
– If an officer tells you something in confidence, KEEP IT IN CONFIDENCE. Don’t tell the neighborhood that an officer is struggling in their marriage.
– Be good neighbors and human beings. How do you want people to treat YOUR family?

Thursday 15th – Officer Seclusion, isolation
-Prayer targets:
— That an officer will never feel isolated from his peers or superiors.
– That an officer will never feel like they are facing their struggles alone.
– Pray that God would send good and trustworthy friends into their lives.
-Ideas:
— If you are fortunate enough to know a police officer, invite their family to your house for a cookout.
– When you see an officer, discretely and kindly ask if they would like you to pray for anything. And don’t be offended if you hear “No.”

Friday 16th – Mental stress, anxiety, suicides
Note: Most officers will shy away from talking about this. Officers are taught control from day one. If they are not in control, someone could die. When officers lose the ability to control their circumstances, self-doubt may set in. Officer suicides are two times higher than the general public.
-Prayer targets:
— That an officer will not struggle with self-doubt.
– That an officer will never feel like they are facing their struggles alone.
– Pray that departments would give good stress detection and suicide prevention programs.
– Pray that officers would always see a way through the pain and struggles they face.
– Ability to relax off-duty – Officers are human beings and need to rest.
-Ideas:
— If you are fortunate enough to know a police officer, invite their family to your house for a cookout.
– If an officer tells you something in confidence, KEEP IT IN CONFIDENCE. Don’t tell the neighborhood that an officer is struggling in his marriage.
– When you see an officer, discretely and kindly ask if they would like you to pray for anything. And don’t be offended if you hear “No.”

Saturday 17th- Departments and families of 2013 Line of Duty deaths
Note: There were 105 deaths in the “Line of Duty” in 2013 (Not including 17 K9 officers). Over 90 departments across the United States will honor names added to “the wall” in DC.
-Prayer targets:
— That officers and families would experience healing from the pain of their loss.
– That departments would develop programs for support before they are needed.
– Pray that officers would not experience “survivor’s guilt” .
-Ideas:
— Contact your local police department/Sheriff’s office to see if they have any memorial events. Attend them.
– If your local dept has memorial gardens, plaques, or stones, visit them. They died protecting you and your family.

Distribution: Please distribute to all law enforcement personnel – Police Week 2014

As always, I want to say thank you to everyone who has made it possible for me to distribute this message. I cannot express my gratitude enough for your assistance. I also want to thank you, the reader. I can’t personally shake your hands or buy you lunch. I can, however, let you know that people DO care. This message is being read by departments of all shapes and sizes. To each of you, welcome. I know you’re busy and you do a lot to get ready for your shift. So thank you for reading.

May 11-17 this year is Police Week. It was designated by President Kennedy in “recognition of the service given by the men and women who, night and day, stand guard in our midst to protect us through enforcement of our laws”. We are going into a time of remembrance. There will be local, state and national memorials. Locations may vary from the front of the building, in restaurants, pubs or the national memorial in Washington D.C. It’s a time to remember our fallen and to honor their courage and sacrifice. I think one of the best way to honor them, is to live better lives ourselves.

I was watching a video last week where a motivational speaker was talking about the speech below. It is a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt, and I think it is very fitting for you to remember. You have a job where you are constantly second-guessed by the public. So read this quote and let it soak in.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I’ve been privileged to see some of the “inner workings” of what goes on, good and bad. But you are out there doing the job every day. You are out there in the “dust and sweat and blood” doing what you do best. And the secret that some of you don’t let out is this: Sometimes the dragon wins. Sometimes despite out best efforts, things go wrong. Despite all the efforts, there are still DUI’s, meth labs and domestics to go to. But do you give up? No way! You keep pushing back the darkness. You keep attacking evil, even in its home court! You keep going to the same house and pulling someone out who is high, drunk or beating on someone else. You keep up the pressure. That’s what I call someone who “spends himself in a worthy cause”. We might never see the end of the evil that people inflict on others, but that doesn’t keep us from fighting, and that’s why you are amazing.

In closing, some of you will be heading to Washington for the National Memorial, and I hope for a safe trip. Others are going because you know someone being added to the wall. My thoughts and prayers are with you for safety, as well as healing. But for all of you, I hope and pray that not only will the week be safe, but the rest of the year as well. I hope there is an outpouring of appreciation from the communities that you serve.

In closing, thank you for all you do. I’ve said it before and will say it again, you all are heroes. I don’t know how often you hear it, but I’m certain it’s not nearly enough.

An open letter to a Dispatcher

While I was getting some thoughts for my next email (for Police Week 2014) that will be going out in a week or so, I felt the need to stop and converse for a minute on some people who are really special to me.

For those of you who know my story know how it started. Here is the basic story that I tell “This began while I was thinking on the events of 9/11 in 2008. One of the last “moment of silence” was for the fire fighter that was the last survivor removed. During that moment, a gratitude for our law enforcement and fire crews really “came to life” so to speak. That evening I called my local department (Huber Heights, OH) on 9/11 and asked if they could let the officers and fire fighters know my appreciation for them. I was informed that they had not had that request in over 14 years. So that’s when I decided that I would reach as many as I could and let them know they are cared about.”

What seems to both of us like a moment of candor and honesty, has turned into a real life purpose for me. It’s been said that there are two great days in your life. When you are born, and when you figure out WHY you were born. That day really started the journey for me to figure out WHY I was born. When I talked to the dispatcher that night, it really came alive in me. Now, 750 departments hear from me. I’m a Chaplain for a few Police Departments directly and available to others as mutual aid. I’ve been in hospitals, funerals, more ride alongs that anyone I know and my life is dramatically different now. I won’t say who it is since I didn’t get her permission, but I have told her on a few occasions what that conversation meant to me that day. My life has been changed forever. Who did God use? It wasn’t a friend, or even a minister. It was a Dispatcher.

This week is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. A time when we express our gratitude to those who are behind the mics and phones telling us all what to do and where to go. I’ve sat in the HHPD dispatch for a while on a couple of occasions. I hear them in action every time I’m in one of our cars. I know that we are in good hands when I hear their voices. They are just plain awesome.

I want to give shout outs to another dispatch too. Now I’ve heard lots, but in a trying time, these voices kept it all together. When I went to Menifee County after the tornadoes in 2012, I rode with the Sheriff’s Office there. Even in the middle of all kinds of stuff going on, the Menifee County dispatch team was on top of it. Here’s the picture: It’s two days after the touchdown. We have 2 people confirmed dead, and damages to numerous residences. Power lines still lay in some roads and the National Guard was blocking off the worst hit area. It is 10 PM at night, getting colder. On top of all this, opposite side of the county, a domestic violence call. Then it started snowing. All this going on, and the lone dispatcher was holding the county together. She was in control. And even though some of this area had just been through hell, you’d never know it to her the radio transmissions. I was amazed.

SO to all my dispatcher friends (and readers) out there, never forget that you are AWESOME. Never forget that YOU can make a HUGE difference in someone’s life. You are the voice we count on. You may not get enough credit for what you do, but it does not go un-noticed. So, if any of you guys ever need anything, you let Doc know.