My little brother retired this week. For 20 years he has been waking up every day and proudly putting on the blue uniform of the Owensboro Police Department.
For better or for worse, I always felt a little responsible for the career path that Chris chose. Growing up, he always filled the role of peacemaker in the house when dad and I argued for sport about the issue of the hour.
He was traffic cop quite often. I was two years older, which made me his driver by default. He monitored my speed when we would try to see how fast we could push the car in fifth gear, helped me pull cars out of ditches and corn fields during times of driver distraction and was my wing-man during a couple of accidents — including one that sent us 15 feet up in the air. He was a brilliant accident reconstructionist. But, he never shared the final reports with mom and dad.
So, after graduation from Western Kentucky University and USMC Bootcamp, we all expected Chris to get into some kind of occupation that helped others. And, that is what he did. Police work is all about helping. All about serving others. That is what my brother was called to do. So, he did.
He spent his career leading through example. As he was promoted to leadership positions, he always stayed true to those who were on the streets patrolling and keeping our community safe. Along the way, his wife, three daughters and our mom have shared him routine traffic stops, foot pursuits, through stand-offs and hostage negotiations. They prayed through nights that he would come home safely and spent many, many holidays without him. That is what cops’ families do.
I went to see him the night of his retirement. He said he was tired. And he never says he is tired. The emotions of sending the last email and walking out of the building as a civilian were bittersweet. The friends that he has made — and that he graciously shared with us — will last a lifetime.
But, that was not the subject of his reflection. It had hit him somewhere that day that dad has been gone for over half the time he served as a police officer. Before dad was sick and Chris worked midnights, dad would stay up after Chris came on shift so he could talk to Chris between calls. He wanted to hear about what had happened and how Chris handled it. Dad also wanted to hear his son’s voice to know he was safe.
He said that after dad died, he did everything as if dad was there watching him.
Dad was watching, Chris. And he is proud.
By Candance Brake President and CEO Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce