Sunday Mornings with Rania: What About Them? The Families Behind the Heroes

Sadly, I’m sitting here again reading about the ambush-style killing of a Texas public servant. On Monday, April 3, 2017, at around 7 a.m., Assistant Chief Deputy Clint Greenwood was targeted and shot.  After radioing his unit to say he was “bleeding out,” he sadly succumbed to his injuries. A huge loss for so many agencies, many are working to find the person(s) wanted. 

Over the next days and weeks, we will hear stories about the life and service of Assistant Chief Deputy Greenwood, stories from various communities about what he meant to them. But tonight, for some reason, I can’t stop thinking about her . . .the woman who is most impacted by this loss, the one whose life will never be the same, the one who now has to face a future without her partner. What about Mrs. Greenwood? What about all the spouses of our incredible men and women in blue? What about the Greenwood children? What about them? What about the families behind these heroes, the ones we never really speak of, but who are sacrificing just as much as our first responders?

In 2016, the US saw 135 police officers die in the line of duty, which was the highest number of fatalities on the job in five years. Nearly 50 percent of them were fatally shot, including 21 of whom were killed in different ambush-style attacks. These numbers, as gut-wrenching as they are, are numbers most of us read, think that’s too bad, and keep going. For the families behind the heroes, these numbers are terrifying. They represent the chance and the reality that their family member, their spouse, parent, or child will not be coming back after they suit up and leave for work in the morning. They are numbers that, while not dwelled on, are not simply moved past.

I can’t stop thinking about the families behind the heroes. What can we say to them? Thank you is a small start but almost not enough. To those families I think: You, while not in the line of fire, are in the line of duty. You are also making the sacrifice. You are making adjustments, daily, so that men and women in blue can do the very hard jobs that they do. You all deal with changing schedules, long shifts, second jobs, carrying the family load on your own and in the end, salaries that can never reflect the gravity of the work, the risk and the potential sacrifice. Your homes have children who must be so proud of their officers but who know a hero can never truly put down the badge and never turn themselves “off” to the needs of the community.

Family members of peace officers have no choice but to share. Kids of officers must share their parents. Spouses of officers must share their partners. Parents of officers must share their children. You share them, unselfishly - during birthdays, holidays and every other day. And you do this, without issue, because you too love your communities and understand how critical the work of an officer is.

And on top of it all, from time to time, you will hear backlash or read the stories that target, malign, second guess, and judge. Many of you take these stories in and have shared your response is to quietly pray – pray for our cities, our communities, our children, our homes and schools, our businesses and more. You have a grace that is characteristic of your families. 

While our law enforcement community is always with you, it’s time that as a community, we come together to honor you, to recognize your role in making the critical work possible and to think of you not only after tragedy but today, and each and every day. You lovingly and selflessly don’t live in fear or hesitation but in strength, determination and encouragement. We see you, we are thinking of you and we thank you.

About the author

Executive Director of Crime Stoppers of Houston