This story touched my heart and I needed to share it. Our friend at COPLIFE.NET, Mike, waited 4 years to tell the story of losing a brother in blue. Not only was he mourning the loss of his fellow officer and his best friend, he was mourning the child who he watched grow into a man. He was mourning the loss of his actual brother.
Mike tells the heart wrenching story of life after death, courage after grief, and perseverance after shock. Mike didn’t have to share his story with any of us. In fact, most people wouldn’t have. But, he knew that it was a story that needed to be heard and a legacy of someone who needed to live on.
“News of an officer involved shooting cut through the rest of the morning talk-radio chatter on the drive to work. Most of the other officers at the department had also heard the news, but the disposition was unknown. We all hoped for the best of course, but sharing a common in-car messaging system, several unanswered messages began to increase concern. Eventually, a voice on the other end of the phone from the Taylor Police Department (Taylor, MI) confirmed that in an early morning situation, an Officer had been killed in the line of duty.
The next few hours, although I remember much of them in detail, still became a blur. When I returned to the Department, guys took my gun belt off and loaded me into a car to get me where I needed to go and stayed with me as long as was needed. I will forever be grateful for all those officers during those hours. You see, losing a brother in blue is never easy under any circumstance, and the feeling of loss extends beyond the borders of any jurisdiction. But long before Cpl. Matthew Edwards was my brother in blue he was…just my brother.
As I type this, it has been 4 years and 112 days since Matt’s murder and I continue to be changed by that event and have tried to understand what I can learn from it in order to make me a better person and a better officer. I wanted to share a few of those things I’ve learned along the way so far. Perhaps you too have learned similar things or maybe something altogether different and I’d love to hear your stories as well.”
His story doesn’t stop there. Mike continues to share about the very difficult conversations he had with his children, who were fearful of him returning to work. Why wouldn’t they be? They had just lost their uncle to an officer involved shooting. They had just experienced every law enforcement families nightmare firsthand.
“Not surprisingly, my kids didn’t want me to return to work as a cop. There were many conversations about the need I had to stay the course and continue to do what I set out to do in this career–that it’s what “Uncle Matt” would have wanted. There were late nights of trying to explain how our faith in God is what must carry us through as I looked into tearing eyes of kids struggling to find their own child-like faith. My wife, ever supportive, knew that no matter what she said that we both knew what decision I would be making.
Shortly after I returned to work, I learned that there had been a debate as to whether I’d actually stay a cop. I was told that it was understandable if I quit. But to me, there was very little question (if ever) that I would return to work and continue to fight for the same things that my brother fought for and in the same way: with integrity, service and honor. By no means is this meant to highlight my own character. It’s to highlight the fact that every single officer that has given his life before and after Cpl. Edwards and everyone that has stayed or signed up for this job knowing the risks have something much deeper moving inside of them that provides the strength and courage to serve their communities.
There is one primary reason any good cop does this job and it’s the most cliché: to help people. Cops learn to joke about this because the hard exterior necessary to do the job must be exposed, yet it is that weakness that is our greatest strength and fuels us with our greatest motivation to overcome the fear of losing our families and ourselves in this job. You come to see the purpose of law enforcement as greater than yourself, greater than any one individual.”
He touched the heart and soul of every officer in his last paragraph. There is a lump in my throat as I read it because I’ve heard very similar words spoken by my husband. It’s something that is ingrained in all of them. His tone switches to coping with grief and what it’s like to depend on his fellow officers.
“Grief has a way of making us feel alone; almost as if it pushes us there and doesn’t want us to get out of the corner. But when you lose a brother in this profession, you realize you gain a million more. The year after Matt’s death, I had the opportunity to go to National Police Week in D.C. (an event every LEO should attend during their career). In a few short days, I was able to hear the experience of other officers from here and around the globe. There is something quite fraternal about this job and it’s encouraging to know that you’re not alone in the fight. We cannot replace our fallen brothers and sisters, but we can find unlimited support from law enforcement’s extended family.
No matter how hard someone may try to do this job alone, they will soon realize they are dependent on their fellow officers. They may not like one another outside of work (or even at work) but they better learn to have each other’s backs; we depend on it. Together, we hold the line and should be willing to fight for one another down to our very last breath. And contrary to popular opinion in the ranks of social media, good cops don’t like bad cops any more than you.”
And how it felt sitting just feet away from his brother’s murderer.
“I was in the court room only a matter of feet from the man that shot my brother in cold blood and I was armed; not just me, but dozens of other cops. The thought crossed my mind about how easy it would have been for myself, or any one of them that had served along side Matt, to put an end to this killer’s miserable excuse for a life. Yet, no one said a malicious word to him; no one so much as threatened him. In those difficult weeks of the trial, the thin blue line began to make sense to me. It was that restraint that existed in those suffering officers that separates us from them.
Oh that doesn’t mean none of us wanted to take our own revenge—cops are human. But surrounded by a court room of others who stood on the right side of the thin blue line, I was reminded that our true character is revealed not in the moments when all is well, but when life becomes difficult.”
I will likely never get to shake the hand of Mike. I may never get to hug his neck and tell him thank you for his service. The very least I can do is share his story and thank him for his willingness to be heard. You can read the rest of his story at the following link: Lesson in Losing a Brother – COPLIFE.NET. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Personal Note to Mike: Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. Thank you for continued support of Humanizing the Badge. You are greatly appreciated. Stay Safe and thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your service to you community and our nation.
*IN MEMORY OF CPL. MATTHEW EDWARDS*
End of Watch – 7/23/2010
Thank you for your sacrifice. We’ve got it from here.