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Heavy Is The Badge They Wear

by Minden Press-Herald

By Randy Rogers

When as a young man, or woman, and they pin a badge on your chest, you notice a change in how you see yourself and how others see you.  Russell Croxton knew that the day he returned to the Town of Dubach Police Force.

You now belong to a family – a green, blue, or khaki brotherhood – one that your friends and family may never truly understand.  You quit get invited to parties because, “well, you know, you’ve gone over to “the other side and your presence might make other party goers uncomfortable.”  So you party with your cop friends.

Just like doctors and nurses, police officer must learn to park their emotions in order to do their job.  I once asked State Trooper Greg Gossler how he could work an accident scene where entire families were lost.  I remember he said, “I don’t have time to think about it.  I’ve got too much work to do.  The hardest ones are when young kids are involved.  That’s when it’s really tough to get that off your mind.  I have to wait until I get home to let go – sometimes to cry…”

Once, after a tough night in uniform, I came home to see my young wife sleeping. I remember looking down at her and thinking, boy, if you had seen what I just did you wouldn’t be sleeping quite so peacefully.  Yet, you can’t rightly share those feelings with family. One, because it would be cruel to do that and two, they have no grounding in what you’re going through. Only cops know what other cops experience.  Only they can relate to the sweat, the adrenaline, and the fear they can experience on any given day.  

And because so few can relate; you tend to keep your feelings inside. And the pain makes some drink alcohol to excess or commit suicide…as so many police eventually do. And it’s all because they feel alone with their feelings – isolated and misunderstood by others – others except those who wear the badge. 

Yet even among other cops, you can’t always share your feelings.  That’s why most agencies have a chaplain who helps them work through their problems offline.  Then you see the protests on the television, hear those who second guess, and it makes you wonder if you should punch in tomorrow – pin the badge back on your chest, put on your vest, strap on your weapon to rejoin the fight.  But you do; because that’s the life you’ve chosen.

You emotionally lock arms with your buddies and tell them you have their backs – their six – and ask them to have yours.  Because of the uniform you wear, you, unlike your civilian counterparts, must summon the courage to run towards the sound of gunfire – and not away – even when running away is more instinctive.

You know the next radio call could be your last.  You accept that, one day, you may have to make a decision – in a split second – that takes a life and ruin yours.  And you can’t change that fact without changing careers.  

Then one day, following a horrible national incident when 5 officers are ambushed and killed in Dallas, Texas, my childhood friend, Tricia Attaway Baker, baked some banana bread and took it to her local police station in Greenwood, Louisiana.  Took it by just to show her appreciation for those in uniform who put their lives on the line every day to protect her, her property, her friends, and family.  That’s one day out of many that you feel appreciated.  One day the badge you wear doesn’t feel quite so heavy.  

On this day, when our hearts are so heavy at the passing of Officer Russell Croxton, let’s remember how heavy is the badge they wear and never forget their dedication and sacrifice.

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