The others behind the badge

Written a number of years ago, to honor Tony Howe’s family. 


Hundreds of police officers.

Dozens of cruisers.

Countless friends.

Five parents.

Three little boys.

One wife.

Boundless love and respect.

As we stood at the cemetery on Monday, the wind softly blowing and prayers being lifted up to heaven, it was quite evident the presence surrounding us.

So, so many people and an otherworldly presence assuring strength in a state of uncertainty and grief.

Yet, I couldn’t help but focus on one woman and the tight-knit group around her. Tony Howe’s wife, his boys, his parents, his in-laws, his sister.

There they were, amid so much . . . and when it comes right down to it, in my mind, they are heroes, too.

They are the others behind the badge.

Stephanie, Tony’s wife, never let go of her children. They sat in solidarity, as a unit – the other side of Tony’s life when they weren’t lending him out to protect the rest of us.

As Stephanie held the youngest, lightly whispering to him as tradition and protocol played around them, she would often extend her free hand out to the older two, to squeeze their fingers, gently rub their forearms.

As one of the most profound moments of their lives played out before them, she made sure to let her children know they were protected and deeply loved.

It moved me to tears. In trying to turn away from the raw emotion, my eyes shifted for a moment . . . and I saw a familiar group. I knew those women . . . they were the wives of our local police officers and deputies.

Through a multitude of tears, they choked back their sorrow as they watched a woman who is one of their own . . . they are the others behind the badge.

I fear that we often tend to forget the spouses, children and families of those who work daily to make this a safer place for the rest of us.

Do we remember the people who hold down the home front while their loved ones fight crime, fires and wars?

Do we think about the others behind the badges who are willing to lend out their special people, their best friends and partners in life . . . so lives can be saved and improved?

We remember them in times of tragedy . . . but do we, often enough, remember them as they make great sacrifices during regular life?

As Tony’s funeral drew to a close and it was time for the family to have a private moment, I couldn’t help but notice how many people remained around them.

The bubble of unity wasn’t burst, it only seem to intensify in strength with almost a glow about it.

And that included the others behind the badge – that group of women I talked about earlier who held Stephanie close in their hearts because they understand. They stood fast, tears in their eyes and pain in their stomachs. Eventually, it was time to move on.

I told Stephanie last Sunday that I was planning to write one more story about Tony – there’s been so many over the years, exemplifying his talents and involvement with law enforcement, not to mention the community.

But as I walked away, taking a glimpse one more time of this courageous lady, I knew in my heart that the last story about Tony’s life would regard the woman who stood beside him and behind that badge.

She’s the one who will carry on his legacy, as she raises his sons and works to make sure they know how wonderful their father was. And she will be helped by the others behind the badge . . . which should also include the rest of us.

So, Stephanie, I said I’d write one more story about Tony . . . and I didn’t lie. Because by writing about you and your kids, I’m writing about the greatest joy in his 37 years of life.


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