At a very young age (10?), I decided I was going to be a policeman. In my eyes, they were heroes. Why? Cause they were literally Crime Fighters. Who did mom always tell you to run and find if someone hurt you or tried to kidnap you or if you got lost? A policeman. In my youth, there were still commercials that reinforced this. In my youth, TV shows still portrayed cops as heroes.
This decision remained firm for quite some time. I joined the military at 18 and that’s what I told the recruiter: “I want to be a policeman”. He said, “No problem” and pointed me in the direction of military police. I was overjoyed! I was finally gonna be a hero.
Now, granted, military police is (in my opinion) a “light” version of being a cop, but I didn’t care. I had my uniform, my gun, and most important – my badge. So in my head and heart, I’d made it. I was a policeman.
Now Phase II of my Plan was to serve my 4 years as a Military cop, then I’d get out and join the Real Police Force. And, in the interim, I’d get my degree in criminal justice.
Everything was going according to Plan.
That is…until I actually started doing the job.
It didn’t take long to realize that I wasn’t going to spend 100% of my day fighting crimes and saving people. In reality, I spent 80-90% of my day either: waiting for something to happen, or serving as a social worker. Specifically, when I did actually do something, it was: dealing with drunks, breaking up domestic disputes, and taking crap from spoiled officer’s brats who thought they were better than everyone else in the world.
Wow! That nearly popped by bubble. But I was still determined. So, I went to visit the local police station in the city I was stationed. I needed to know the truth. I needed them to tell me that my military police experience wasn’t going to be the same in the Real World.
They were very polite and patient, and one particular officer took the time to sit down with me and answer all my questions. But, in the end, the truth was… Yes – it’s pretty much the same, but with a little less waiting around.
Sure, they busted robbers and drug dealers and so on, but the vast majority of their interaction with people involved drunks and domestic issues.
It took me years to find a new career dream, and it has changed several times between then and now, but nothing’s ever felt as overpowering as those years when I dreamt daily of being a police officer – a hero.
Police officers are still heroes to me, without doubt. But now, I see much more clearly what they do and the many additional reasons to consider them heroes. Their sacrifices are voluntary and enormous. Their courage is undeniable.
They are forever my heroes.