On August 28th, 2009, I took an oath to become a police officer for the City of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Becoming a police officer changes your life in ways that only police officers and their families will truly understand. Being a police officer is a very stressful job. It is one that comes with many sacrifices. When we go to work we leave our house each day knowing we may not come back. We all decided that we are willing to die for people we don’t even know. Even with all the criticism toward law enforcement today, we still continue to get up and go to work because we know without the thin blue line people could not enjoy the freedoms that this country allows them to have.
In Jan 2013, I was selected to join the Myrtle Beach K-9 Unit. This position really opened my eyes up to the impact I could have outside my normal duties as an officer. The more time I spent at K-9 demonstrations and out interacting with the general public, the more I learned that I could have a greater impact by teaching children and adults about law enforcement. This opportunity allowed me to help bridge the gap between law enforcement and the general public and show the community that officers are human beings too and want to help make positive changes that benefit everyone.
Throughout my life, hunting and fishing has always been my escape. These hobbies continue to help me with the stressors of the job. In the fall of 2016, my supervisor tasked me with putting together a community event in our city. We decided to do a “Cops and Bobbers” event where we would take kids fishing. With help from various donors, this event was a huge success. We were able to provide the kids with everything they would need to continue fishing on their own after the event was over. The joy that was mutually shared between the officers and the children while catching their first fish will definitely be a priceless memory for all who experienced it. Hopefully, the time the children were able to spend one on one with police officers will have a lasting impact on their future perceptions of the police.
Over the pass few years I watched many of my brothers and sisters in blue become involved in shootings and other traumatic events. Some have been injured or even killed in the line of duty. It is disheartening to constantly see incidents being reported by the media. I see many people expressing their desire for this madness to end. Unfortunately, the ones putting on the uniform know this won’t happen. We know that crime will never stop and we will always be there to do our best to protect the citizens of this country. I know each time I step out of my patrol vehicle I could be faced with one of these dangerous events. These thoughts and feelings have left me wanting to do more to help my brothers and sisters in blue that have been involved in these senseless tragedies. When you put on the uniform you became part of something bigger. You become part of a very special family and I feel compelled to do what I can to help my fellow officers.
This past year I joined Sandy Pines Trophy Club located in North Santee, SC. This is where I met the club president Phil Mace. While learning about the club I learned they organize hunts for our military and children. I knew at that moment I was joining the right club. Shortly after joining the club, I reached out to Sean Calhoun from Hunts of Honor. When I saw Hunts of Honor was involved in assisting deserving military and law enforcement officers, I knew I had to get involved! After meeting Sean and learning about the organization we decided to put a hunt together. Four deserving police officers were chosen to participate in this hog hunt.
On February 27th, 2016, Ofc. McKeown was training a new officer Ashley Guindon. They responded to a domestic violence call in the Dale City, Va area. Unfortunately these officers were ambushed by the male suspect. Ofc. Guindon was shot and kill and Ofc. McKeown and Ofc. Hempen were shot and injured. I had the chance to meet Ofc. McKeown in person recently. Even though he is still going through treatment for his injuries, he is a very humble person and excited to get to go on the hunt. We as officers all know the dangers involved when responding to a domestic call and the responsibility of training a new officer. We can only imagine the struggles McKeown has had to face in the aftermath of such a traumatic experience.
On Januaray 1st, 2016 Ofc. Smith responded to a theft call and spotted the suspect. When approached Ofc. Smith gave the suspect numerous commands in which the suspect didn’t follow. The suspect quickly pulled a handgun out of his jacket pocket and proceeded to shoot Ofc. Smith point blank. Not giving up, Ofc. Smith was able to recover from his injuries and return to full duty. Ofc. Smith has never hunted before but is very excited to give it a try. Being able to honor brave people like Ofc. Smith as well as open up doors for people to experience the joy of the outdoors is what Hunts of Honor is all about.
On Sept 15th, 2017 Ofc. Choice responded to a call in reference to a subject possibly wearing a bomb on their person and holding people hostage. While officers were on scene, the suspect came outside and charged them with a crowbar. Ofc. Choice made the split second decision to eliminate the threat for everyones safety. Everyone that wears the uniform knows we have to make split second decisions that we will have to live with the rest of our lives. Ofc. Choice did everything he could to try and protect the people he swore to protect that day. Taking a life is not something we take lightly in this job and we all hope we never have to. Ofc. Choice deserves respect for his life saving decision.
In February 2016, Cpl. Gist noticed a suspicious vehicle in the Goose Creek, SC area. During her investigation, a struggle took place and Cpl. Gist was shot multiple times. She didn't let that keep her down. She still continued to fight. Cpl. Gist has recovered and returned to the road. She is a true fighter and I have no doubt she is ready to battle the hogs!