On a Tuesday morning about five years ago I was doing what I normally did on a Tuesday morning when I was a working stiff......
I was standing in a Starbucks. Waiting for my drink order.
What made this Tuesday morning so different was that I was in full police uniform, all polished, pressed and shined.
At the time I was assigned to a unit that was responsible for usher duties at police funerals.
I was getting ready for a long day at a funeral for a veteran officer that had died quite suddenly due to natural causes.
As I stood there waiting for my coffee, a fellow patron approached me and said "I want to thank you for your service."
I cannot remember exactly how I responded but I'm pretty sure that it was something like this.....
I shifted from foot to foot unsteadily
I said a couple of "ums" and "ahs" as I tried to think of an eloquent and wonderfully sincere response.
And in the end I was probably as clumsy as I always am in these situations.
The truth is this was not the first time that someone approached me in uniform to express their gratitude.
However, in true form, I have always responded in the most ungraceful of manners.
I really never know what to say.
There is a big part of me that feels very undeserving of such heralding or praise.
I've never done anything heroic such as run into a burning building or tackle an armed suspect.
Maybe there were times I put myself in harms way. Maybe.
But I cannot think of any off the top of my head.
I hear the stories of other officers and often I stand in awe of them.
There was a fellow officer I worked with that once subdued a drugged up attacker, who was trying to kill him, with his bare hands.
Yes, I do not feel worthy to be in such company.
And today, it is even harder to be an officer on the street.
Much more dangerous and so much more second guessing.
When I think of all of them, I feel like a fraud.
I did not live, eat, or drink the job.
I did not picture myself as the superhero or the first person anyone would want to come to their aid.
I never felt deserving of all the thanks.
But then when my career was over and I was more retrospective I realized something.
The people who approached me were not just thanking me.
No, it wasn't all about me.
When they offered their thanks, they were, by extension, thanking all those who wear the uniform and put their lives on the line daily.
When they thanked me, they were thanking all officers.
Today is National Thank A Police Officer Day.
And I have this one request.
If you see a police officer, make sure to thank him or her.
You will, in essence, be extending your thanks about 800,000 times over.