Last night, JD came up to me and asked if he could write a guest post about the LEO funeral he’d attended that day. I’m really happy he’s willing to share his story. There are so many stories from his job- so much he goes through that I want to share but can’t articulate, probably because these stories aren’t mine. In JD’s words….
It was October 29th, just another normal day in the life of this cop. I was scheduled to be in Superior Court all afternoon for a felony DWI trial and so I slept until the late morning. When I awoke I immediately checked my phone (as is my usual routine) to see what news I had missed out on from my 12 hours of sleep that is customary on a night shift month.
In my email I found yet another email notification from the Officer Down Memorial Page informing me that another officer had died in the line of duty. This was the first loss of 2013 for the state of North Carolina, and it hit home as I read the details of Senior Officer Bingaman’s career. This officer worked in a city that I absolutely love, and he had also served in my beloved Marine Corps for six honorable years. And so I gave Senior Officer Bingaman and his family a quick thought for strength in the coming trials.
I dragged myself out of bed and continued about my week as usual. I attended the trial for the next two days and then went back to work on Thursday night to get back to my business of arresting people that need arresting. That evening, I met up with my best officer friend and he informed me that he had served with the fallen Officer I had received the email about when they were both stationed at Camp Lejeune in the early 2000’s. He informed me that he was planning on attending the funeral on Monday morning.
I immediately knew I had to attend the funeral with him. It was my duty as a brother Officer and brother Marine to be there for him during this tough time. And so the planning began for us to attend the funeral with our Lieutenant in tow as a supervisor. This would be my first attendance at a LEO funeral in my career, and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy…
So the preparations began on Sunday evening. I spent the evening making sure that the creases in my patches and sleeves on my uniform shirt were razor sharp. I stripped and polished my brass to a high sheen. I shed the unnecessary street tools from my patrol belt to lighten the load for a long day on my feet, and a clean professional look. I was going to look my absolute best to represent my department at this funeral. I was going to look my absolute best because that’s what Senior Officer Bingaman deserved from me on the day of his final 10-42 (end of watch).
The day began early on Monday, at around 0300 hours (3am for you civilians out there following along still). I awoke and donned my meticulously prepared uniform to head to the police station to meet my compatriots in this day long journey. We had a four and a half hour drive ahead of us to the funeral, followed by several hours at a church, and several more at the graveside, followed by a four and a half hour drive back home. It was to be a long day for us all.
The car ride out was filled with the normal cop shenanigans of telling old war stories and making fun of each other, but in the back of my mind all I could think about was that I was about the be there to lay a brother to rest and pick up his watch. It’s a somber feeling to put so much emotion into a funeral for someone you have never even met before, and in fact, it doesn’t matter that I’ve never met him before. All that matters is that he woke up every morning and donned his badge, vest, and gun just like I do, to go out and keep the wolves at bay.
So the church ceremony proceeds as most do, until the bagpipes start. There’s just something about bagpipes and an Officer’s funeral that will put a lump in your throat the size of texas, but I kept it together. The casket moved outside and into the hearse while flanked by hundreds of fellow officers all there to pay their dues. There were officers from every single corner of the state, some even traveling as long as 10-12 hours just to pay their respects to a fallen brother in blue.
As is tradition at LEO funerals, all patrol vehicles in the procession travel with their emergency lights activated, and what a sight it is to see. Hundreds of police cars taking over the highways as far as the eye can see, all lit up like a Christmas tree. A line of cars so long, you can see neither the front nor the rear of the line. All there to bring a brother home…
Today my faith in humanity was restored as everyday citizens took the time out of their busy lives to stop their vehicles on a busy interstate and exit their vehicles with hands over their hearts or at their brows in salute of our fallen brother in blue. Citizens from all walks of life lined the streets, and the overpasses, and waved flags, and held signs thanking us all for doing what we do. Today reminded me that not everyone out there hates the Police, and there are many days where that fact is often forgotten by those who “Protect and Serve” as we become jaded by the wolves we hunt on the streets.
And the procession rolls on… Hundreds of cars, and officers converging on a veteran’s cemetery to bring this outstanding man to his final resting place. The cars parked (with blue lights still flashing), and the massive wave of officers assembled in formations on the lawn. The highway patrol and their horse team carried the casket to the service site where the American Flag was undraped from the casket and presented to the family while a 21 gun salute echoed off the surrounding mountains, and still i kept it together. All in all, officers in formation held a salute for around 10 minutes straight, which is quite a long time to keep your arm up, but the pain is worth it to show your final respects to a fallen hero.
The moment finally came when I could no longer hold back my sadness for this man I had never even met when dispatch made its final call for our fallen brother. Played across a car’s PA system, dispatch called “Edward-32” three times before wishing him a peaceful final 10-42.
In police work, there are no panic stricken moments quite like when a friend and colleague does not answer the radio when called, because there is a very real possibility that officer might never answer his or her call sign ever again. And so the tears came, and streamed down my face for a brother I have never even met. Just because he would feel the same for me if our roles had been reversed.
This is the calling we serve. This is the mission we take on every single day. We are here to fight what you fear, to face the challenges you can’t face yourself. We are the sheepdogs tending to our flock and keeping the wolves out of your homes. We are the Police, and we are here to Protect and Serve.
Rest in Peace Senior Officer Robert Bingaman… We’ve got your watch from here.