“I am my brother’s keeper….”
Officers often live by this phrase; it permeates their everyday life. It circulates through their blood as a vital part of who they are. They have one another’s 6. It’s not just a phrase; it’s a way of life, and it’s part of their calling.
I first heard this phrase when Jason was a rookie. He told me that he wanted to get it tattooed on his arm. Honestly, as a rookie officer’s wife, I didn’t give the phrase much thought. I asked him what it meant, he explained, and I went on. When Jason signed on as an officer, there was no war on officers, and the phrase didn’t seem to have as much “reality” to it as it does in our lives today.
To the general public, it might mean to watch out for one another, to ensure a wife hears the sound of Velcro signaling the end to her husband’s shift. And, those are accurate surface level definitions. We don’t expect you to truly understand the sacrifices, mentality, love, and dedication, required to be your brother’s keeper. It’s a mentality few possess, but one from which the general population benefits. Having your brother’s back means the streets are safer, officers are more diligent, and more criminals are behind bars. The same fierceness that defends their brothers, also defends you.
The same fierceness and dedication never allows an officer to truly be “off duty.” It means that when you are in the line at the coffee shop, and an off duty officer is behind you, he still has your back. Officers don’t pick and choose who they defend; they don’t turn off protecting when they remove their vest. And being their brother’s keeper doesn’t cease when their brother falls in the line of duty.
Instead, as the surviving family of a fallen officer, the phrase means much more…
The phrase can’t accurately be defined, but instead is shown and felt….
In the moments when they stand beside you in line at your husband’s visitation, just to hold your water.
In the sweat pouring off their heads as they stand at attention in class A’s, enduring Arkansas’ mid-June heat, as they say their final goodbyes to their brother.
In the wall they form between you and your husband’s killer when he stands across from you in the hallway, as the jury deliberates his guilt.
In the look they have in their eyes when they see you in the store: one of sadness, admiration at your strength, pride to be his brother, and bewilderment as to what to possibly say to take an ounce of your hurt away.
In their silence as you tell them thank you: forced silence because there are no words to describe how they truly feel.
In the wall of officers they form outside his hospital room: signs of support, love, and solidarity.
In the hand they give you to hold, as you stand in the park at midnight because you simply can’t believe it’s already been a year.
In the random phone calls, texts, and messages to just check in to make sure Jason’s “mini-me” is doing okay.
And, in moments like today, when they research, sacrifice, and deliver Jason’s prized AR-15 back to his son…
Many of you have come to know our story through my blogs; however, some of you may not know we were not originally from Texarkana. We had only lived there a year when Jason was killed. You also may not know the struggle and sacrifices made in order for us to move to Texarkana. C was frequently sick when he was younger, and the medical debt was difficult to manage on an officer and teacher budget. We viewed the move to Texarkana as a fresh start for our family, and we wanted to move as debt free as possible.
In order to make this dream possible, Jason sold many of his guns. Thankfully, he sold them to friends and brothers because most of them have been returned to us. As C ages, he wants to know more and more about Jason. He knows he’s a hero, but he wants to know Jason’s personality. About a week ago, one of Jason’s dear friends, and now one of my friends as well, told me he had tracked down Jason’s AR-15, and that HE wanted to pay for it to return back to C. I’ll refer to him as “D” in my blog, out of respect for his privacy.
I was overwhelmed with happiness, and once again amazed at the lengths to which his brothers will go to ensure they have his back. Jason had sold the gun to his brother G, and now the two of them were working together to bring Jason’s gun back home. The night he told me, I sat and recalled the day Jason bought the gun. I was angry. We didn’t have the money, and now we owned a gun we had “no use for,” in my mind. It’s funny how grief taints our memories and alters our perspective of events. I remember being so angry at him, but as I sat and reflected, my mind kept returning to Jason’s willingness to sacrifice his gun in order for us have a better life.
Today, as I watched C’s eyes light up when the officers explained the history of the gun, I saw Jason all over again in those eyes. C had the same look of admiration, appreciation, and awe at the gun. He had very few words, as is normal for him, but his look said it all. I watched the officers as his eyes light up, as their sacrificial nature radiated from their eyes. The same officers who defend our streets with the brutality that is sometimes necessary to do so, were gentle in their explanations, honorable in their efforts to remember their brother, and truly their brother’s keeper by watching over his son.
It is my hope that C has the same willingness to sacrifice and defend running through his blood. As much as I truly believe our sacrifice was unfair, it our willingness to do so which ensures chaos is kept at bay. As much as our sacrifice angers me, it also empowers me to know that others would do the exact same for our family. As much “wrong as there is in society,” there is still so much good. Today, in my living room, in the eyes of my family as they watched two officers honor their brother, and as they watch C’s eyes fill with happiness, we were reminded of the good.
If we do nothing else as a family, we want C to truly understand what it means to be your brother’s keeper: to defend others with a fierce protection, and to always honor those who gave their lives ensuring ours could continue.
To Jason’s brothers, still 2 and a half years later, we feel your love, your support, and your protection, and we are incredibly grateful. We will walk beside you as we continue to be examples of the good in the world. We have your back, and it is our honor to help protect and defend YOU!