If you watched the news at any point on April 9, you were likely saddened to hear of an officer being fatally shot in the line of duty. For most of us, this news is heart-wrenching, but unfortunately not uncommon. We often hear of men and women who have fallen victim to losing their lives while performing the duties their jobs require of them. Though we haven’t lost an officer in some time in Indianapolis, we hear of losses in other areas and states. The local news may spend days discussing what happened, a suspect, a funeral, but eventually, the shock wanes, and we move on.
I don’t know about you, but the loss of Officer Breann Leath was different for me. She was so young, so beautiful, and the mother of a three-year-old little boy. The day she was killed, intense storms went through our area, and my husband and I slept with our sons close in case the storms got worse. I watched my almost three-year-old sleep and thought of Officer Leath’s son. I thought about what the night may have been like for him, surely having arms wrapped around him tightly, yet they weren’t the arms of his Mama. I wondered if he knew she wasn’t coming home, or if he thought he was just having a fun sleepover elsewhere. I wondered if he fell asleep that night thinking of her, hoping to be bear-hugged by her the next morning, being greeted with a smile and a kiss. For me, this was the first time the death of an officer really hit home.
As much as my heart ached for Officer Leath and her family, I do not understand what police life is like. I do not worry if my husband, an engineer, will come home to me at night. My pulse doesn’t quicken as I watch him drive away, and my stomach doesn’t drop when I receive a phone call from an unknown number while he is at work. Yet some people experience those feelings every day. Many of the brave men and women who serve, protect, and defend their communities have a significant other who stands in the shadows beside them.
We often don’t hear of their stories unless a tragedy happens, but the anxiety, heartbreak, and feelings of relief when their spouse comes home are genuine. I have a good friend whose husband is an IMPD officer, and as I’ve gotten to know her, I have been given a peek into her daily life as an officer’s wife. It is not an easy one. She loves her husband selflessly, and while she is proud of his courage, I don’t believe she has made peace with the concept that her husband is one who rushes to the front line when trouble ensues. Frankly, I’m not sure how someone could. She lives in a setting where many daily responsibilities fall on her shoulders as her husband fits in the trainings and shifts required of him. I have seen the proudness in her eyes as she talks about another hurdle he has crossed, but I have also seen the shadow of fear as we discuss the latest news story and the crime happening around our city. And a death like the one of Officer Leath affects them in a way that cannot be understood unless you have walked in their shoes.
She is not alone. In all of our communities, women and men say goodbye to their significant others and watch them walk away with the knowledge that anything can happen. Children give mommy or daddy a kiss and don’t realize the position that their parent is in while they at school or sleeping soundly in their beds. The men and women who have vowed to protect us run toward danger, and in that moment, not only risk their own lives but ultimately the delicate balance of their loved ones lives as well. The weighted blanket of safety that surrounds them can be pulled away at any time, and while this is the case for all of us, it is a far more distinct reality for them.
If you know of a spouse or significant other of an officer, keep them in your thoughts. As we look at these selfless men and women, may we remember that they walk toward danger with an awful lot to lose. Likely, the backbone of their families is at home, keeping things in order and praying for a safe return. Being an officer’s spouse is not a vow taken lightly and includes its own attached strings, strength, and courage.