For Mike (known to many as ‘Mike the Cop’), it was facing one of his biggest nightmares. It was hearing that his little brother had been shot and killed in the line of duty. It was going home to his four children and explaining to them that their Uncle had paid the ultimate price by laying down his life for a cause. It was helping them navigate a sea of emotions as they came to terms that their own father faced those same risks. It was kissing them goodbye every day after that, praying he would see them again that night.
For David, it was facing the most unnatural circle of life—hearing that his son had fallen responding to an armed robbery call. It was saying goodbye to a man that was still very much his little boy. It was digging deep within and choosing to take his unique skill set as a counselor and a chaplain to encourage those facing the same heartache and loss that he experienced. It was carrying the honor of his son's onward by helping those who have served along side of him.
For Juan, it was watching more and more bright young individuals struggle with addiction in his own community. He watched as it took a toll on their friends, their families, and, ultimately, their lives. It was being the father of two kids who he wanted to protect from the same fate of others he had loved. It was working closely with families, local treatment centers, school districts, non-profit organizations and community outreach groups to help educate, encourage, and empower those who have been affected by substance abuse.
Duty is rising to the occasion regardless of difficulty, fear, comfort and the unknown.
Humanizing the Badge was founded on the very concept of duty. As the world began to see law enforcement thrown into the broadly painted spotlight of today's society, this organization was founded by people who stood up and refused to play into the course of generalized division. We refuse to play into anger and choose to never let go of the one single element that cannot be ignored—the element of community.
Duty is more than just running into a burning building or putting yourself in harm’s way to save someone’s life. Humanizing The Badge is a collection of individuals who believe that it’s our duty to love and repair relationships with our communities. Instead of pointing fingers, we’ve decided to roll up our sleeves, to have the hard conversations, to put down our differences to help law enforcement and communities come together as one.
It hasn't always been easy. Members of our organization have all seen their own struggles and their own hardships. We've experienced significant losses within our own lives that could make most people hang it all up—from sexual abuse, to addiction and depression, to death.
Life is messy. It's hard, complicated, and ever-changing. Our next breath and the breaths of those we love are never guaranteed. Many things are completely out of our control, but the one thing that we hold in our hands is the power to choose how we respond to tragedy. At a time when we hear about tragedies all too often in the news, when police-community relations seem to be irreparable,
Humanizing the Badge chooses hope. We choose action and effort. We choose community.
So what does duty mean for me? It’s the hand of my four-year-old boy that clings to mine, not understanding the pain and evil within this world. It’s his father suiting up every morning in hopes he can leave the world a little better place than he found it. It’s the fear I feel each time he leaves that our son and I might not see him again. And it’s the pride I feel knowing that people like him, Mike, David, Juan, and all those involved in Project Human are out restoring relationships in communities where trust and understanding are more strained than ever.
Our stories are unique as individuals, but they are exactly the same in one extraordinary way. We never give up. It's our calling. It's our purpose. It's our duty. And we have no choice but to answer it every single time it calls.
Elizabeth Ogden is the Co-founder of Humanizing The Badge and author of "Dear Officer" and "Not My Burden but My Honor"
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