I took a drive through a small Georgia town today. It could have been any town, anywhere really. It was a friendly little town, friendlier than most, everyone waving, saluting, filming us with their phones. It was as though the spectacle of a parade was coming through town. Fire trucks, power company trucks, ambulances and private vehicles blocked traffic to let us through. Crowds had gathered, and for a friendly little town, they were really very sad.
Tears streamed down faces as the procession drove past. We, and several hundred more cars like us were leading the way, blue lights flashing; a local boy and his child hood friend had been gunned down. One, was an officer for Americus PD. The other was an officer at Georgia SouthWestern University. Our duty was to pay respects for the University officer. His childhood friend had been buried days before.
Officer Jody Smith had been backing up his best friend. He was shot defending his friend; his brother. He was shot fighting for their lives.
Many beautiful things were said at his memorial; the most notable to me being that “…even in the darkest room, a single match can push the dark away. Be that light.”
As we lined up our shiny patrol cars, with all of their assorted flashing and dancing lights, a melancholy mood hung over us all. We began our drive, immediately aware that this one… was different.
Americus had taken these deaths personally. The first indication was on the drive in, yard signs stating,
“Back the Blue.” Then thin blue line ribbons festooned mailboxes, signs, trees… even a child’s little tykes car which looked like a police car. That’s why they lined the streets, saluted us as we passed.
They had lost a local boy. A good young man, brought up good and proper. Who loved his mom and his young fiancée, pregnant with his child. They lost two good young men, who were eager and happy to serve their fellow men and women. In his death he saved three lives; he was an organ donor, and we were told that the three people who had received his organs were healthy and recovering, his heart continuing to beat strongly. And yet they all grieved.
And we grieved with them. Grown men, hardened officers with tears streaming down their faces as they drove for miles and miles, seeing the outpouring of support. Support which has been very slim of late. It was said that some officers had needed to see this; and this is true. Officers need to feel the love and support of those they stand for and sometimes even those they stand against; least they forget what they are fighting for. They need to know that they are that light standing in the dark, but they should never feel like they are the only light in the dark.
I hope I never need take a drive through Georgia like that one again… but sadly I will; it is an imperfect world, filled with imperfect people. I however; I vow to be a light.
Ever & Always,
Sergeant Cadence Elizabeth Vales
December 14th, 2016