I would like to begin by offering my deepest sympathies to the families and colleagues of our recently fallen members in Moncton, the city I grew up and work in as a member. I am not surprised whatsoever of the out pour of support shown by the citizens of Moncton.
I am far away from home at this time but the feeling of sadness and heart breaking thoughts I am having for the families and members are overwhelming. I have learnt from experience that when feelings such as these overtake your being, you must share and express them.
The R.C.M.P is an organization of excellence, not perfect, but people need to know that those uniformed members they see on a daily basis patrolling their cities are doing their very best with what resources they have.
I want to share what this organization represents to me; you often hear members refer to their colleagues as family, they are family, and they are always there for you. When I was in training to become an RCMP officer, my daughter passed away from cystic fibrosis, I was half way through my training. After being notified of her death, I remember clearly deciding that this was the end of the road for me as far as my career with the RCMP was concerned. I could not see myself returning to complete my training. On the morning that I was leaving depot to return home, 31 of my troop mates gathered around my pit to say goodbye and asked me to consider returning. After many tears and hugs our right marker passed me an envelope, inside was money to help cover funeral expenses and a return ticket to Regina. It is events such as this one that demonstrate why we consider ourselves family, we are never alone. I returned and completed my training.
I often think about this experience and the choice I made to return. I guess it just shows us how one moment can redefine our lives. The recent loss of our members in Moncton will certainly redefine many lives. The question remains what choices we will make, how we will deal with our grief and our outlook towards our own vulnerability. Grief is a little like love; you love people in different ways and grieve people in different ways as well. I grieve the loss of my three children; it is a life long journey. I grieve the loss of our members and it opens up my emotional floodgate. I feel the deep sadness, guilt, anger, helplessness and many more issues. It always seems more difficult because you have a sense that the old scares are bleeding again. Please don’t get stuck there.
We often hear the expression where one says I need to put closure to this. I’m afraid and compelled to tell you it is not like closing a file by writing “No further action required, concluded here” I believe you all know this already. What I can tell you, there is no closure because you will never forget, therefore no real closure. Your journey will bring you to a point of acceptance and a realization that certain events occur which are completely out of our control. You continue to miss them and in time you begin to remember their goodness and what they brought to your life. I have memories of my children that bring a big smile to my face, I miss them more than words can say but with time and acceptance, you focus on the good memories.
Although never diagnosed with PTSD, I am well aware that I suffer from this, the symptoms are there. With all that I have seen and experienced in both my personal and professional life, why would I think that I would come out unscarred? We are all human and I think we can agree we all have a breaking point. I have reached mine many times. I want to share my perspective in hopes that it will provide a little insight for those having difficulties, not only as a result of the recent passing of our Brothers, but every other terrible experience you have witnessed throughout your call to duty.
I was once asked why I became a police officer. Like many, I would answer I want to make a difference and make the world a better place. That is very noble of us and I learnt early in my career that making a positive difference in the world comes at a very high cost. We see an evil part of society that most people only read about, it becomes etched in our minds forever. You may not think about it every day, but inevitably, somehow, it comes back to haunt you. How you respond to the memory is what causes us so many problems. We are not taught this at the Academy; one moment can change your life forever, I cannot count the hundreds of moments I experienced during my career that has affected me in one way or another. I can honestly say I wasn’t aware of this when I was chasing my dream to become a police officer.
Here is what I have learnt and what I wish to share. In order to emotionally survive in this profession, and I include all first responders, you must find a way to keep the balance and harmony in your life. Easier said than done but not as difficult as you think. We all need harmony in our lives because our lives are so busy with family and work; the responsibilities from both are often overwhelming. Unfortunately operational policing does not provide you with the option to simply turn the switch to the off position when you return home. Many times you return home with some pretty daunting visions and emotionally hyped. This could be from attending a serious accident with fatalities, suicide, sexual assault on a child, notification of next of kin and the list goes on. It’s not pretty, but you know what the great thing about your day is… you get to walk through the door and be greeted by your family. That’s bringing harmony back into your life. I maintain balance and harmony in my life by doing two things, being grateful for the people in my life and being kind towards others. I am not kind to people for the recognition, it makes me feel good, it casts a shinning light and there is less darkness. In order to make a difference in the world you need to see the world for what it is, good and evil. I used the down side of the job as my motivation to make a positive difference in my community. The only way to tip the scale our way is to do more good than the evil we see.
Yes it is now time to honor our departed Brothers and allow ourselves the time we need to grieve and accept what has happened. Accepting doesn’t make it right for them, it makes it right for you, this will take some time. What will make it right for our fallen Brothers and all our fallen Brothers and Sisters before them is to continue serving your communities in a way that would make them proud. The opportunities are countless for all serving members to make a difference. In our Verbal Judo/Tactical Communication Course we share the following Warrior Cree, “Everywhere I Go People Are Safer Because I am There”… Everywhere I am, People Have A Friend”…”When I Return Home, Everyone Is Happy Because I Am There” To Dave, Fabrice and Doug, it was my privilege and honor to be a part of your training at Depot Division. To my Brothers In Arms, be well in the arms of the Angels.