This past week our department (California Highway Patrol) said goodbye to Motor Officer Lucas Chellew after he died from a crash on duty. At the funeral, there were many there who were devastated by his loss–those who knew him and served alongside him. There were others who didn’t know him but were affected deeply because they had experienced other losses, and this was a painful reminder. I saw many tears that day from those in full Class A uniforms. Some say cops don’t cry–but that is wrong. Cops cry whether or not their tears are visible.
Those of us who love our officers share that grief. We may be family of the fallen, or close friends. We are experiencing our own feelings of loss. But even if we aren’t, the grief is a very present reality, because we feel our loved one’s pain. It may bring up fear, or confusion as our officers pull away in the emotion. It is in these times that we struggle to know how to help, what normal grieving looks like, and then worry creeps in.
The following section is from my book, A Marriage in Progress. This part is for officers. I will address how loved ones can support their officers after a LODD in another post.
“The thunder rumbled and the room lit up. She sighed heavily, leaning over to see that her husband was not in bed. And then she remembered where he was. Sadness. Anger. Grief.
She pulled herself from under the covers. She couldn’t sleep anyway. Between the physical storm that presently ripped through the sky, and the storm that had crashed in on their world just a few hours earlier, there was no peace in slumber. There was no peace anywhere. She and her husband were reeling from the loss of a Blue Line brother, and extended family member.
The days that followed were confusing, her husband dealing with not only a personal loss but also a professional one. Emotions alternated between shock, anger, and sadness. They went through the motions with arrangements, and protocol, and the overwhelming presence of uniforms, all with their children in tow. It was devastating.
“I don’t know what to do,” confided Kristin about her husband. “He’s all business. He’s short with the kids. I know he’s hurting, but he won’t allow himself to grieve.”
When you lose a brother or sister in the line of duty, give yourself permission to grieve. Here are a few ideas to work out the grief:
Talk it out with your spouse or another close friend. Tell stories. Admit you miss them. Get angry at injustice. Whatever the stage of grief you’re in, sharing these feelings does two things: It takes away the power to rule your thoughts, and brings you closer to those who listen. Grief is something to be shared.
Incorporate a characteristic, a quote, or something your loved one stood for in your own life. “Let’s roll!” became a household phrase after Todd Beamer said this before he died on Flight 93 on September 11, 2001.
Pay tribute. Freeways named after the fallen, bike rides to DC in the fallen’s name, a lapel pin or ribbon, scholarship funds, a trip–the list goes on and on.
Go to Police Week in Washington DC. Attend the vigil. Get a name etching from the Law Enforcement Memorial Wall. Leave a note. Sit at the wall awhile. It’s worth the time and money.
Be patient with the emotion. As time passes, processed grief will subside. Sometimes feelings of loss will rise up here and there even years later. This is normal.”
(Page 194-195 of A Marriage in Progress–Tactical Support for Law Enforcement Relationships)
I would add the following:
Grief is natural, normal, and should be expected. It comes on strong in the beginning, and this is the hard part. Allow yourself to talk about it–it helps. Restrained grief will come back again and again until it’s dealt with. It sucks, it hurts, but it will get better.
Grief happens in different ways for different people.
Isolation is an enemy–some time away by yourself is natural. But those who are closest to you are your greatest allies. Don’t push them away.
Victoria Newman March 6th, 2017
Posted In: Uncategorized
“It took a few months for the incident to finally hit me emotionally,” Andrea explained. “Then I couldn’t think straight. I felt depressed, sometimes angry. I found myself crying a lot. Why would it hit me months later? Then I realized that other wives were going through the same thing.”
Andrea’s comments are common for spouses of officers who’ve gone through devastation through either a critical incident that affected many in the department, extended overtime details for rioting or fires, a line of duty death, or similar situations. We saw several departments across the United States last year that were under fire—literally, figuratively, and politically. Officers, leaders, and their families underwent difficulties on a large scale. Dallas, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Baltimore, and areas of Louisiana are just a handful of many communities affected. And then the election inflamed already troubled areas. Through it all, departments have been in survival mode, addressing only immediate dangers, needs, and problems for the time being. Many are exhausted physically and emotionally.
Across the nation, police families have taken up the slack. Surviving the absences of their officers while dealing with social media comments, inaccurate press, and voices of those who’ve jumped on the bandwagon of demonizing those they love. They’ve spent long hours caring for children, simultaneously working their own jobs. Shuffling schedules, extra chores, and the inevitable questions from family and friends.
Once the dust settles from the chaos, homes will need to be tended to. Marriages, children, health, and frazzled nerves wait in survival mode. We wonder, will life ever return to normal?
As one who works alongside police families, I’ve noticed emotional and relational crises develop two to four months after unrest. Law enforcement families are in survival mode from the rioting and the ambushes on a national level. Once things quiet down, those who are solid in their communication and relationships will be fatigued, but generally fine. But those who had problems and issues before will be in crisis. The colder months typically are rough for a lot of people generally, but after extended times of high alert, overtime, hate rhetoric, and lack of support from the public/government/media—this can take its toll.
In light of this, I’ve compiled a few suggestions for law enforcement and their families to proactively decompress from the strain:
1) Embrace a new season—winter is a time for rest. Spring is a time for renewal. We can take a cue from nature by taking stock of the good and positive areas of our lives, then shedding the negative, allowing for rest and renewal.
2) When the time is right, talk with each other about the intensity you’ve gone through. How are you each feeling? How are you processing it? What concerns do you have going forward?
3) Officers, thank those who took up the slack at home—for household chores, handling the kids, and emotional support. For spouses, thank your officer for standing courageously and tirelessly as the thin blue line. Want to motivate each other with generosity? Do something really special—flowers, take the kids while they get a day off, take a spa day, or grab a babysitter and go out for dinner.
4) Reestablish good habits like regular exercise, healthy meals at home, date nights, dinner at the table, and help with chores.
5) Make time for sleep. Sleep not only brings physical benefit, it allows the brain to process difficulties. If you can’t sleep or are plagued with nightmares related to your ordeal, talk it out with someone you trust—a mentor, spouse, a therapist, or perhaps a chaplain. Be aware that alcohol may relax you, but it interferes with your quality of sleep, especially REM sleep (when the brain is naturally reordering itself to better deal with troubles). Frankly, sex is a much better sleep aid, and also creates intimacy.
6) Get away from the fray. Take a day here and there to escape to the beautiful. Take a drive; go hunting, fishing, or snowshoeing. Something about beauty restores the soul and mind.
7) If your summer included loss of a loved one, allow yourself to grieve. Visit the gravesite. Shed a tear. Head for Police Week in the spring. Train for a memorial run or the Unity Tour. Grief is natural and expected.
We as a law enforcement community (families included) have taken a hit these last months. Let’s take time to heal, reconnect, and grow strong together.
Victoria Newman February 11th, 2017
Posted In: Uncategorized
Yesterday Chief and I attended the funeral of Deputy Dennis Wallace from Stanislaus County, California. He was the latest officer from California to be executed by gunfire. I’ve been to many line-of-duty funerals in my 28 years with Chief, and this was the second police funeral I attended this month.
If you’ve been following the 40 Days of Gratitude campaign on this page, you may have noticed that I’ve shared some difficult days. When protests turn to riots, another brother or sister is laid to rest, our family time is cut into, our officers show signs of wear, and the media spreads the filth of hate and anarchy, discouragement and fear sets in. I’ve heard from many of you that this is the case for you, too.
But yesterday I rode with Chief in the processional from the service to the gravesite for the first time. It floored me.
The quiet majority came out and were anything but silent. I’d never seen such support from a community. Signs of support (not one middle finger!). Blue line flags that hung from houses and vehicles and people. Blue ribbons tied to telephone poles and trees and fences. Blue balloons adorned the schools. People dressed in blue T-shirts waving American flags. People of all ages, colors, occupations, socio-economic status’. We saw farmers, orange-vested men in hard hats, store owners, office staff, veterans from several wars, and families who may or may not be here legally. There were babies with their mommas, sons and dads with their hands over their hearts. Women crying. A man standing at attention with a blue ribbon tied to the grill of his completely restored pickup from the 50s. Seniors in wheelchairs. Teenagers. Smiling people without teeth. Firemen saluting on top of their engines at every turn. Older men with hands over their hearts with jaws tight. Young men with their pants hanging low. Pretty sure I saw a tweaker or two. We drove by the schools where Deputy Wallace was particularly involved, and school children by the dozens chaperoned by parents and teachers crowded the streets. Messages of admiration lined the chain-link fences. Thank you notes, tears, and waving. Helicopters and planes flew overhead, and those in the processional could not help but turn on their sirens in thanks as we passed by.
This is small town Northern California! There were hundreds of people, perhaps even thousands. And they were there to honor the life and sacrifice of Deputy Wallace, to show their support for his family, and all law enforcement.
It gave me hope.
Because even though there are those who are protesting, and rioting, and wreaking havoc and hate toward the Thin Blue Line, there are thousands who support peace officers, and do not support the violence, nor the sentiments that are so inflamed by the media. We’re not as alone as we thought.
Deputy Wallace was one of those officers who went the extra mile on the job—with kids in particular. In the service we listened to testimony of his commitment to young people, and the difference it made in the lives of many. His integrity and passion for his community built bridges between officers and those arrested. Adults and children. Life and death. And even though there were many colors that were present, race was not even mentioned. Not once.
I was reminded of the power of one. Just one officer made an incredible difference in the lives of this community. And there are countless officers who are doing the same.
I was reminded that we are America. Land of the free, home of the brave. There is hope here.
So today, Day 38 of 40 Days of Gratitude, I am grateful for hope. Thank you Modesto, and in particular, Hughson, for your voice. You spoke for the silent majority across the nation. We as police families are so thankful.
Victoria Newman November 23rd, 2016
Posted In: Uncategorized
Yesterday marked 40 days until Thanksgiving. At church our pastor talked about unity and what that looks like. He first of all said that unity doesn’t mean that we have to look like each other, that we don’t have to be near each other, or that we have to agree with one another. He quoted another pastor, saying, “We don’t have to see eye to eye, but instead we walk hand in hand.”
Wow. I look at our country and how fractured we are right now. We are the United States of America. We don’t all agree. We live miles away from one another. And we certainly don’t look like each other. In fact, we’ve reduced each other to what color we are…but that’s another topic.
I also look at our law enforcement community, and how beaten up we’ve been over the last few years. Our Thin Blue Line is what is holding the country from being overrun by chaos and anarchy. Revisions to law, political pressures, demands based on perceptions, loud accusations that quiet the majority, and a relentless and biased press have squeezed that thin blue line even thinner. I know our officers feel it. I know our families feel it. Live it. And discouragement reigns as answers are not easy, and often illusive. But it is more important than ever to strengthen our Thin Blue Line.
My pastor went on to say that where unity begins is in gratitude. Concentrate on what God has done for you, rather than increased fault-finding in others. Now, there are those reading this who have a faith in God, and others who don’t. But the point is the same—concentrating on what we have and being thankful will make for a better attitude.
In light of this thought I’m asking you to join with How2LoveYourCop in a quest to concentrate for the next 39 days on Gratitude. Each day I’ll post on Facebook/Twitter a question to think about, and perhaps some insights I come across. I’d invite you to comment, bringing forth some of your thoughts as well. We’ll keep it positive.
Not sure exactly where we’ll ultimately go with this, but nonetheless we have the power to change our thoughts and attitudes. Attitudes change our choices, and choices make up our lives. What a great way to enter into the Christmas season, and an even better way to survive the election!
Victoria Newman October 17th, 2016
Posted In: Uncategorized
Since this time last year (May 2012), I’ve been working on a book called Selfish Prayer. I am the ghostwriter, which means that I write another person’s story. That someone else is a member of the California National Guard, and served in Afghanistan in 2009 as a Medevac flight medic.
It’s been quite an education.
Previously my knowledge of the Armed Forces came from stories from my grandfather, a WWII veteran, a few conversations with my brother who fought in Panama in 1989, and the brief journey we endured with my son who went to Marine boot camp and came home early because of a medical discharge. I, like so many other Americans, hold a special place in my heart for the men and women who serve in the military. They have my respect, my support, and my gratitude.
But when a retired California Highway Patrolman who worked for my husband approached me about writing his story, I had no idea what lay in store.
My first exposure was to attend a speaking engagement to hear my client’s story. Wow – he recounted how he was lowered down from a helicopter in the midst of a fierce firefight to retrieve five wounded soldiers the age of his son and all those who were involved survived. He then loaded me up with newspaper clippings, magazines, pictures, and video that I spent the next year reviewing.
We conducted interviews with medics, crew chiefs, pilots, and doctors, flying to the southern states and driving countless miles on the west coast to hear their stories face to face.
I looked into their eyes and heard the inflections in their voices. Anger. Hurt. Bravery. Camaraderie. Love.
At times I had to swallow the lump in my throat, and other times I couldn’t hold back my tears as most of them wept as they shared their memories. They gave me pictures, camera footage, raw recollections, and felt comfortable enough to speak freely, sometimes taking me aback.
Since then, I’ve gained a new and deeper appreciation for those who’ve been to battle. Because once they got on that plane and headed to the war-torn fields of Iraq and Afghanistan, the war embedded itself into their souls. There were horrors to witness. There was blood shed by brothers they loved. There were injuries and deaths and decisions and injustice and boredom and shock and smells and sounds and hate and ego and misunderstandings. And it was packed into a year or so and that year will never leave them. It is permanently etched into the fabric of their being.
When they get on the plane to come back to US soil, they bring the war back to us here at home. They try not to. They try to keep it hidden in some compartmentalized nightmare within their minds. But it’s left an indelible mark upon their souls, and it permeates their personalities and separates them from those who love them. I pray we have the courage to bridge that separation that naturally occurs.
Tomorrow is Memorial Day, where we remember those who’ve fallen on the battlegrounds of wars past and present. Their blood was spilled for our freedom. We are grateful for their sacrifice.
This Memorial Day I am also mourning the losses of those whose hearts did not stop beating, but have lost just the same. There are many who lost limbs, lost recognition from burns, lost brothers they loved, and still more who lost their marriages, lost mental, emotional, and spiritual footing, and in many cases, left pieces of their souls on the battlefield. Those of us who are carrying on with life in safety and security seriously do not have a clue as to the sacrifices and loss they have experienced.
As for me, I’ve heard soldiers cry. I’ve shared the memories that dance just behind the darkness in their eyes. I know that when I wake up in the night, there are thousands of veterans who are reliving their war in their dreams in homes across America.
Veterans, alive and gone, it isn’t enough to say thank you. I acknowledge your sacrifice, and I pray for your healing, and for all that you’ve done (even the unimaginable), I am grateful for you.
Selfish Prayer: How California National Guard Changed the Face of Medevac Amidst Chaos, Carnage and Politics of War was released in August 2013. It is available for purchase via Amazon.com and is available in paperback and Ebook.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" May 31st, 2016
Posted In: Uncategorized
Fifteen months ago I stood on the bank of a rushing river, hesitant to jump in. This was a metaphoric river in my mind—knowing that once I jumped in, it would be one wild ride. I would be at the mercy of the river, letting it carry me wherever it led.
I gathered some courage and jumped in with both feet. The current of adventure, tragedy, difficulties, and many obstacles threatened to drown me. But as of today, I have emerged victorious.
This wild and rushing river was the journey of writing A Marriage in Progress – Tactical Support for Law Enforcement Relationships, the companion book to A CHiP on my Shoulder, and written for officers.
When getting a book ready for publication, there is a grueling process the author goes through. Pinpointing exactly what to say, how to say it, and then putting small parts into a larger readable, engaging experience takes thought and perseverance. The journey determines the outcome. A Marriage in Progress went through this process, but faced obstacles at every phase. Frankly, there was a battle for every single word.
I had the outline and title early 2014. By August I was ready to write. I put together a survey and in one week, over 900 police officers, spouses, and dispatchers responded. I read every single response, and followed up with many of those who gave their contact information. I held dinners for police officers to ask them questions. I met with officers, therapists, and spouses, read many books, and discussed issues with others. I scoured the Internet for articles and blogs and information, and kept an eye and ear open at all times for content.
During this journey I fought health issues, a difficult season of my husband’s career, a family crisis, a national cop hate campaign, a tragic incident that stunned our Sacramento region, and issues with my publisher. Family members underwent several trials, and both of my daughters moved out of the house. My grandparents passed away, and I performed both ceremonies. But all of these issues made the book even better.
At every turn, the voice of doubt was whispering: I can’t do this. Will anyone actually read it? Is this any good? There were many who kept me going with their encouragement. My Bible, treadmill and positive music dealt with my stress – some mornings I ran and cried at the same time.
And then Chief began the meticulous process of going through it page by page. It was tedious but necessary. This was the makeover that brought the book up to where it needed to be. I dismantled two chapters that were a mess and added another, and went back and did more research. I took every piece of constructive criticism he gave and incorporated all of it—I even thanked him for tearing it apart! A real victory for this stubborn girl.
What has emerged has me absolutely ecstatic. The comments received from readers have given me encouragement and confidence. Chief, after reading the suicide chapter said, “This chapter will save lives…” I burst into tears. The foreword, written by a respected leader in law enforcement, makes some very bold claims that left me speechless.
A Marriage in Progress is crammed full of information, tools, perspectives, and encouragement. It is the companion book to A CHiP on my Shoulder, but includes more that I’ve gleaned since 2011. I address law enforcement relationships through police culture and concepts, making parallels from who they are as officers to who they are at home. It addresses communication, conflict resolution, parenting, spouses, ways to combat hypervigilance, soul wounds, and finances. It gives vision for marriage, hope for restoration, and addresses boundaries, sex, and trust. It includes a section for leaders and a section for comic relief when the reader needs a break. At the end of every chapter are some thoughts to contemplate, ideas to discuss with spouses, and suggestions for strategic application. Lastly, the 12-page Resource Guide lists many books, programs, organizations, and information that help the law enforcement family. I didn’t find everything out there, so my website will be updated regularly to include new resources.
Spouses will love this book. Officers will be challenged in a supportive way. Family members will finally get it. Chaplains and therapists will glean insight. And my ultimate hope is that relationships will thrive, lives will be changed, and marriages last.
If you would like to order A Marriage in Progress, it is available now on Amazon.com at: http://www.amazon.com/Marriage-Progress-Tactical-Enforcement-Relationships/dp/1508921652/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1449771094&sr=8-1&keywords=a+marriage+in+progress.
The Kindle version will follow shortly.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" December 10th, 2015
Posted In: Uncategorized
Finding My Words Again
I haven’t blogged since December. I’ve been scarce on Facebook for months. My calendar has had only a few speaking engagements.
Sometimes life is so overwhelming there are no words.
My life has been like that for the past year.
I’ve struggled to find words of encouragement in this time of cop hate, low morale, and the division between Americans. Although I read other people’s remarks, I have to confess that although some little tidbits have let me laugh or think, the rest have left me feeling pretty bleak.
Chief and I have had a very hard year. Probably our most difficult yet. Since July 2014 we’ve been under a blanket of trial; layers of thick and thin adversities that tucked us into a bed of suffering emotionally, physically, relationally, mentally, professionally, and spiritually.
I’ll spare you the details.
We walked through one day at a time, sometimes individually, sometimes together. There were days we couldn’t even speak.
One by one, the layers sorted out. Some circumstances changed; others we made peace with. Little by little burdens lifted, and the confusion has subsided.
On Thursday, Chief and I celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary. Because of what we’ve been through it was not only a celebration because that’s what you do on anniversaries; it was a celebration of our friendship. We walked together through many things—and emerged closer than ever. And we’re profoundly grateful.
Just before our dinner date, Brent stopped by the florist to pick up some flowers. As the florist worked on my bouquet, they chatted about the sweetness of a long life together. He said to her, “You know that look an old couple have when they gaze at each other? They don’t have that look because their lives were happy all the time and easy. They have that look because they went through hell together, and made it through.”
I know that there are many of you who’ve been through hell this year. I’ve heard from some of you. I know that this winter season in the Blue Line Family has been long, and doesn’t show signs of letting up soon. But you and your spouse can weather this storm.
In the next weeks, I will share some key things that Chief and I learned this past year that may be helpful for you individually and as a couple.
Oh, one more thing. After our dinner date Thursday, I wanted us to take a selfie so I could put it on our page. What followed was a giggle fest that developed into all out belly laughs. I’ve included it here—as a visual aid to show you that no matter what you go through, you can still return to joy.
Stay tuned for my next post: “You Can Handle More Than You Think.”
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" June 8th, 2015
Posted In: Uncategorized
It was dark when I went out to fetch the mail last night. I thumbed through the mail as I walked, straining to see by the dimly lit houses.
One envelope caught my eye.
It was a small card, made out to my author name, no return address.
The postmark was from St. Louis, Missouri.
My first thought was to wonder if this was my first hate mail. Seriously…
I quickly opened it to find a thank you card. For my support. Said it was greatly appreciated.
The name that followed caught my breath.
A name I wouldn’t have recognized before this summer.
A name that is hated among some. A name defended by others.
A name I have thought of every day since August, and have said prayers on his behalf.
He said my support is greatly appreciated.
And my answer to that is the feeling is mutual.
Because frankly, it isn’t about him anymore. It’s about us. The Thin Blue Line.
He’s the mascot. The martyr. The maligned.
I have wondered how he’s been getting through this. I’ve wondered about his wife. I’ve wondered if he’s afraid, or embarrassed, or hurt.
And right here, in my hand, I realize how he’s surviving.
In spite of the madness, he’s thankful.
And so should we.
He’s choosing to send a word to those who’ve supported him.
So should we.
He’s choosing to look at what he can control, not what he can’t.
A lesson we can take and follow.
We need to be encouraged by those from all walks of life that do appreciate peace officers.
We need to encourage each other, too.
Slowly but surely, I’m hearing civilians ask, “Do these people really want to take away the powers of the police? Do they understand what will happen if the police don’t respond to their neighborhoods? I sure don’t want that.”
They know that peace just doesn’t produce naturally.
They acknowledge their need for peace officers. They’re thankful, too.
There are people who are listening to the facts and deciding that this is madness. There are those who are seeing the violence on TV and tire of the temper tantrums, especially when the evidence in this case doesn’t support the claim.
We’ve got to walk through this, my friends. It hurts, but there’s no way around it.
Our emotions are high, our fears are valid, and our security shaken.
We need each other now more than ever.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" December 9th, 2014
Posted In: Uncategorized
It happened five years ago today in a remote village in Afghanistan.
An ambush. A battle. Bad decisions. And 11 Americans and many Afghan nationals were forced to hunker down and fight for survival in what is called simply by its village name: Ganjgal.
That one word conjures up pain in the hearts of those who were there, and their families. At the end of the day, three Marines, a Navy corpsman, and eleven Afghan coalition fighters had given their lives, and a month later an Army soldier died of complications from wounds suffered on the battlefield.
It was a day of heroics, and a day where leaders failed. Communication broke down, and men were denied the support they needed to survive. It was a day that raped the souls of several great men, some who are still reeling from its effects.
I learned of this battle about two years ago while sitting in my office, listening to an interview on tape. I heard the tearful story as a pilot recollected that day. What he said gripped my heart – “I can still hear the voices of those Marines crying out. They visit me night after night.” And then, a long pause.
I stopped the tape, went to the computer, and after reading about it, knew immediately this story had to be told.
Thus begun my personal connection to the battle of Ganjgal.
The following months I researched, read other men’s accounts, and grew puzzled as things didn’t add up. My co-author, Emmett, wrestled with the idea of including this chapter in our book (Selfish Prayer) because it had become so cumbersome. I suggested we interview one more medic who was there. To our surprise, he lived nearby.
That interview changed everything.
It was also the one that hit me hardest.
I had seen pictures of this guy when he was in Afghanistan. He was huge, handsome, fearless. Who I saw in person a few years later was someone who was broken – a man damaged by post-traumatic stress disorder. I barely recognized him. And the battle of Ganjgal was his nemesis.
I had to process my thoughts and emotion for the next few days.
During that interview he mentioned that he had camera footage of this battle. As we watched, we couldn’t help but marvel of what unfolded before us. We took a copy with us.
The next couple weeks were a blur. Emmett contacted the man who was portrayed in the video – a soldier whose career had ended because of Ganjgal, and whose nomination for the Medal of Honor had been illusive. He’d spent much of his time near Seattle in solitude and anonymity since leaving the army. Once we found him, Emmett offered him the video, and invited him to come to Sacramento.
To our surprise, he accepted. We brought him to the CHP Academy along with several of the Medevac guys who had been at the battlefield, gave them a several hour tour, and bought them lunch. It was a perfect beginning to a weekend of debrief. Over the course of the weekend, the men talked about the battle of Ganjgal, each giving their recollections, watching the videos (a second one surfaced as well), and clarifying facts.
It was technically a critical incident debrief, three and a half years after the fact.
Even after several years, this weekend brought clarity and healing to the memories that plagued these men.
The soldier on the video returned home with renewed purpose and vigor. Those close to him said that something changed within him. He himself commented publicly that the video contained truth he thought had been lost.
Within seven months, that soldier, Captain William Swenson, was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama at the White House. Chief and I, along with several of the Medevac guys, were there in person to witness it.
The video is the only known footage of a MOH recipient’s heroism in action. It has been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people via television and YouTube.
As I look back to a day of blood, sacrifice, and death, I mourn for those who lost their lives. I now wear a black band on my right wrist given to me by a widow to remind me of them, and to pray for their families.
I also saw with my own eyes the power of critical incident debriefing. In this instance, there was no chaplain or counselor present, just those who were affected. They shared meals, and stories, bonding activities, and then bravely entered back into that battle together. They were comforted by truth, and banded together like brothers, sharing pain and memories and the consequences.
And although it didn’t heal all wounds, it did much good. It provided clarity for some, peace for others, and in Swenson’s case, brought him back to the army with an MOH around his neck, a voice of change within the ranks, and a new purpose.
THAT is why I do what I do.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" September 8th, 2014
Posted In: Uncategorized
How to Love Your Cop Through Hate
Yesterday I asked Chief about the general feelings of the troops in light of the movement of hatred toward police officers brought to the forefront in the Michael Brown shooting.
“Just another day on the streets,” he replied.
When I answered with a quizzical look, he reminded me that California is no stranger to this attitude.
He reminded me that as a new cop on the streets of Los Angeles 26 years ago, there was a warning that Bloods and Cripps had declared war on the police, and had shot at police from overpasses several times. My own husband was shot at while he was assisting a pregnant woman in labor who’d been accosted. He’d been part of the Rodney King riots in 1992. We have problems in Oakland as well as LA on a regular basis. And last year, when Dorner went on a killing spree (killing police officers and their family members), social media blew up in support of his murderous rampage.
So, as spouses and families, how do we respond?
For officers, it may just be another day on the streets, but for you and me it’s different.
It pisses us off to hear sweeping judgmental comments about men and women in blue. We know firsthand how much abuse they take, how scrutinized they are, how quick people are to blame cops for their own mistakes, and we experience everyday the lack of sleep and constant stress. We live in it.
And we make sacrifices, too.
Because we know and love who they are underneath that uniform.
We know that the things chanted in the streets are rarely supported by evidence. Because we live with them, breathe the same air, watch them be tender with our children.
So, in light of this, I’ve come up with a list of seven “keeps” of how we can love and support our spouses.
For starters, a “keep” was a type of fortified tower built within castles during the Middle Ages by European nobility. It was a fortified residence, used as a refuge of last resort should the rest of the castle fall to an adversary.
Kind of like our homes today. By keeping in mind the things I’ve listed below, we can actually fortify our homes, and our officers.
Keep Your Head
There will be anger. There will be fear. There will be injustice. There will be misunderstanding and misinterpretation. Even by people who are close to you. But understand that they are not thinking specifically of your spouse when they spew out their rants. They are rebelling against AUTHORITY. I’ll expand on this in my next post, but for the time being, we gotta keep it together, just like our husbands have to. Take your frustration and anger to a trusted place (closed support groups on Facebook, friends you trust, family members who are supportive of your marriage and mission), and delete police haters from your Facebook. We don’t need to feed our minds with it. In the heat of the battle, they aren’t listening anyway.
Talk out your fears with your officer. Listen to his frustrations. Then keep it between you. Communication is toughest in crises, mainly because we’re all trying to figure out how we feel, think, and respond amidst inflamed emotions. But our officers need a safe place, as do we.
Also keep in mind that when police are scrutinized and the public demands answers, our leaders are thrown into a delicate balance of accountability to the people and impartiality to their own. It’s a very difficult place to be in, and many are just not equipped to handle it well. In these cases, trust can disappear in a moment, between the public and the department, and the leadership and the troops.
Many times you are the only sounding board your officer can trust.
Keep the Peace
People are vicious in groups. There are some peaceful protestors who have legitimate complaints based on fact or misunderstanding. Then there are anarchists who will inflame crowds with misinformation or disturbance. And then there are those who are attracted to the stink and take advantage by vandalizing or looting. Whoever they are, they have no idea the sacrifices a police officer and his family make, and frankly don’t care. Sometimes an officer will fail and have it coming.
As spouses, we want to choose their side, shout to the world, educate people, have them see the truth. These attacks aren’t necessarily personal (except for the officer in the hot seat, and they are actually considered a representation of all cops). The issue is the uniform and what it represents. It feels personal to us, though. We have a right to our feelings, but we need to keep above stooping to their level. Many times its wise to just walk away.
Keep Eyes Open
When we are alert, listening, and learning, we have the ability to offer tidbits of wisdom to our officers in appropriate moments. We have intuition, and we have a different perspective. And vice versa.
We also need to be vigilant in protecting our homes and our children. Be aware of your surroundings, wear your police T-shirts in appropriate places, and put the uniforms in the trunk when you pick up the dry cleaning. We are proud of the fact that our spouses are officers, but not everyone shares the love. Our officers already know this and that’s the reason they want to live quiet lives that don’t bring attention to their positions.
We have two ears, one mouth. And if patient, we can learn some things. About people. About ourselves. About the actual facts of an incident. We have the power to exercise wisdom. We have a responsibility to restrain ourselves, just like our officers. If we season our speech with humility and reason, it gets ’em every time.
Keep the Home Fires Burnin’
There is nothing better than a home that is clean, smells good, runs smoothly, and there’s food on the table. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had Chief come home and breathe a sigh of relief because the house is clean and dinner is ready. This also works for teenagers after a long day of school and sports. And as I write this, I look at my house and realize that this keep here is for ME.
Yep, God is interested in this. The Bible says that He puts those who are in authority into service to keep the peace (Romans 13). Police officers are actually servants of God Himself. I will write more about this in another post because its important we understand this. But for us, for now, we do help our spouses by talking to God about them. Pray for their stress, their wisdom, for their conduct, and of course, pray for their protection.
There are also those officers who become the lightning rod in these inflamed responses, and many times the facts are irrelevant or not reported until that officer is trashed and maligned. These guys and their families need our prayers as well.
And we can pray for ourselves, too. Over the years, I have dealt with anger, confusion, fear, and other emotions by going to the One who will always listen, always answer (although not always how I’d like), and who will love me no matter what.
Lastly, we need to pray for our enemies. For those who have taken on hatred based on non-truths and misunderstandings. They are hurting and lost and are looking to blame others for injustices. Those who destroy and riot and steal and even murder, yes, they most certainly need our prayers.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" August 28th, 2014
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