Early on the morning of May 27, two Cayce Department of Public Safety officers made a routine traffic stop. It was as typical a duty for them as sending an email, cleaning a table, or writing an article would be for those with other jobs. Routine.
The events of that routine traffic stop ended with both officers hospitalized, recovering from gunshot wounds. Both are expected to recover, but they narrowly escaped losing their lives. That is what “routine” means for police officers, firefighters and EMS workers. Every single day on the job could bring danger. Every single day could be they day they don’t come home. Why do they do it? None of them are forced to. None have been drafted. None are getting rich. So why? Because they put the needs of others ahead of their own. Because they are servants: public servants.
The Cayce Department of Public Safety motto is “Sworn to protect, proud to serve.” While other departments have different words, all share the same mission. It is more than enforcing the law. It is more than putting out fires. It is more, even, than saving lives. These men and women dedicate their lives and risk losing them to serve us. Us: those of us who sit behind the protection they provide and send our emails, clean our tables and write our articles.
The “call of duty” for public servants goes far beyond the basic job description. The examples of the “extra” things they do could fill encyclopedia-sized volumes. Lexington police recently worked to raise money for Relay for Life. Columbia firefighters and Richland County EMS workers teamed up to save a dog from a burning home, then, finding the animal not breathing, worked successfully to bring him back to health. Columbia police serve up ice cream on hot summer days. Officers from Springdale, Forest Acres and many others came together, chiefs among them, to walk in high heels to raise money and awareness for survivors of sexual violence.
They are always on duty. Any time we are having fun, at a concert, a sporting event, a bar, an amusement park, they are there. Not to spoil the fun, but just in case. The EMS workers, the firefighters, the police officers. All are ready. They often must pass on having fun themselves to make sure we can. That’s what servants do.
Too often, they are written about, recognized, acknowledged only when they make a mistake, or when in the course of their routine they lose their lives.Too often, they are seen either as villains or heroes, or else ignored.
Author Karen Rodwill Solomon wrote “Most policemen, firemen, and soldiers don’t want to become heroes; they want to be men and women doing their jobs. They want to be supported and understood.”
Make no mistake: they are heroes, though most we have met will demur when told so. Who but a hero would get up each day and go to a job at which “routine” could include mortal danger? They are more than just heroes, though. They are human, and they are servants. They make our communities better, sometimes in ways we never even know. They work for us. We should thank them far more often than we do.