It’s not every day that I get to visit with an officer that was injured in the line of duty. When I get the opportunity, I don’t take it lightly. Even more so, when I visit with their family, I mentally put myself in their shoes. As of right now, their reality is only my fear. God willing, it always will remain just that; a fear. I would be lying if I said that I haven’t asked myself the extremely difficult questions about my husband’s occupation. It almost feels careless to not have that honest discussion with yourself. Assaults and injuries sustained in the line of duty do not discriminate. They do not just happen to specific people. It could be anyone, at any moment, and at any time.
For Sgt. Houston Gass, it was when he was responding to a domestic dispute call. Just like any other day in Pampa, Texas, he woke up that morning and put on his uniform, strapped on his duty belt, and secured his badge to his shirt. He fully expected to take his usual break, swing by his home and have dinner with his family that night. When Sgt. Gass approached the front door of this particular call, he found himself on the receiving end of a shotgun blast to the face. If you ask Houston why he is still alive today, I can assure you that without even ever shaking his hand, he would tell me that it was by the grace of God and the grace of God alone. When I think about how easily that could have been his EOW, it makes my stomach churn. You see, I’ve spoken to his wife. And even though I do not know her well, I feel like I know her heart.
Jessica has the same sense of servitude to her family and community that her husband has. She knows how easily the father of her children could have been taken from them. She knows that it could have ended differently. She even knows that he will go back. I can speak for the majority of police wives when I say that I would be an absolute train wreck at the thought of waving goodbye as he left to return to his line of work. Much like her husband, Jessica defers to her faith in Christ. When I spoke to her, she made it clear that the glory belongs to God. She made it clear that it is because of her trust and faith in her Savior that she will rise above her fears and support his decision to return to the field.
As for his community, I think they are all still healing too. When an officer is shot in the line of duty, it strikes to the hearts of their fellow officers. Regardless of demographic, location, or division, they are very much a family. When one of us mourns, all of us mourn. As soon as the news broke out, Humanizing the Badge began receiving emails from all over the West Texas Panhandle asking us for our support and our prayers. Which brings me to the people who have rallied behind the Gass family. I don’t know if it’s Texans or just the way humanity works, but I know that this particular family didn’t feel alone for a single second. They had God and their community on their side.
This is where we meet Cpl. Sheldon West, of the Amarillo Police Department. I have had the honor of speaking to this particular officer and his wife, Holly. When I asked their peers how they would describe the West Family, they said “They are people who seek no recognition but are worthy of much.” Just from speaking to them briefly, I can tell that this is true. Here’s the deal about Sheldon and Holly; they didn’t know Sgt. Gass or his family before the unfortunate incident on January 6th, 2015. In fact, they don’t even work for the same departments. Cpl. West just knew that one of his fellow brothers was injured and he couldn’t sit idly by from the sidelines without doing something.
The West Family utilized every resource they had to put together a benefit event for Houston and Jessica Gass. It included a live band, a silent auction, and a place where people could come together for a good and common cause. Everyone volunteered and donated their time and their services. They knew that this 5 person family could use assistance for all the odd expenses that come along with this sort of injury. Because the treatment isn’t local, the financial strain can become towering. With the help of the community and the hearts of people like the West family, the stress of the unknown financial strains has been essentially eliminated.
Today, Sheldon and Holly were able to hand over a check to the Gass family. This check represented so much more than just money. It represented love, unity, and brotherhood. It represented the family of the thin blue line. I can speak from experience when I say that this family is not well known for being greedy when it comes to people who have experienced a life altering event. I’m always proud to be a part of this phenomenal group of people but, it’s stories like this that remind me how grateful I should be. People can say that these men and women are evil and they can try their hardest to paint a picture of them with the brushes of fallacy all they want. We all know it isn’t true. We all know who we are. And, know we are united.
Sgt. Gass has a long road of recovery ahead of him. I hope I get the chance to shake his hand and hug his wife’s neck some day. And, even though the road to recovery is long, Houston will go back.
He will suit up again.
He will protect his community again.
He will put his life on the line……again.
If that isn’t the epitome of heroism, I don’t know what is.
Humanizing the Badge has much love for the Gass family. We are so glad that Houston is still with us. We can never become desensitized to these events because they feel more abundant than ever. We need all the good guys we can get. We need the Houstons and the Sheldons of the world to keep signing up for the job. We’re all in this together. I’m glad to be a part of each of you. Let’s hear it for Houston Gass and Sheldon West. Thanks for being such a huge part of the 99.654354%.
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Humanizing the Badge by Elizabeth Shiftwell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.