By Suzanne Mazer Stewart|
Everyone, I'm sure, is aware that Memorial Day is fast approaching. I, for
one, am grateful that our nation has set aside a day for remembering our
honored dead. Much will be said and done about our military heroes, those
fallen defenders of our nation's freedoms and way of life. I believe that it
is only right and just to honor those brave souls.
Not so many of you, however, will know that May is National Police Officers'
Memorial Month. Again, I am grateful that our country has chosen to set aside
this time for paying tribute to those fallen heroes who also paid the
ultimate price for their fellow Americans. I am disappointed, though, that
this receives so very little notice.
As the wife of a police officer, I try to keep track of mention of law
enforcement in the news. So far this year, I've seen a cartoon (The Family
Circus) and one editorial dedicated to National Police Officers' Memorial
Month. I would have thought, and expected to see, in the wake of 9/11, that
there would be more attention given to the occasion.
Don't get me wrong. I believe our military veterans deserve all the honor and
glory they can get. My father was a Viet Nam veteran and received precious
little acknowledgment for his years of service, including 2 years of combat.
Even his own government acted for a time as though they wished he and his
comrades would just go away. So maybe that's why I feel so strongly about
Our military does a job nearly unequaled in the world. Not only do they
protect the "homeland," but also protect the rights and freedoms of those in
other countries, as well. Our police officers do nothing less than phenomenal
in their own right. They are entrusted with the welfare and safety of all our
275 million citizens. We can all sleep better at night because of their
selfless service. We owe the fact that we can walk down most of our streets
without worry of attack or injury. They stand alone against those who would
act to us harm, to take our property or our lives.
Yes, crime does happen. Often, people complain that the police don't do
enough. What most don't realize is that the deck is actually stacked against
them. New York City, the nation's leader in law enforcement, only has 30,000
or so uniformed officers to serve it's 7 million citizens. Some laws actually
hamper the police in the performance of their duties. Many law-abiding
citizens, not to mention the criminal element, have little or no respect for
their law enforcement officials. And the very governments that they uphold
pay them, on average, very poorly. Even New York City's finest patrolman only
earns around $40,000 a year.
Now, some of you out there are close to apoplectic by now, I'm sure, with my
going on about the hardships and hindrances our police officers face. Let me
ask you some questions: How much would you be willing to make to put your
life on the line every time you went to work? How often could you stand by
and be verbally assaulted and not be able to do anything about it? How many
times would you be content to be physically assaulted before you were ready
to quit? How many times could you walk out your front door to go to work
knowing in the back of your mind you may never walk back in, before you just
didn't go out to work anymore? That's reality, that's Life, for a police
I say let's remember them all, dead and living. Let's give them all a moment
of our thoughts, a prayer for their safety, a "thank you" for what they've
done and continue to do. It is, literally, the least we can do to honor those
to whom we owe so much.
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