On April 2nd, 2015, I attended my 24th police officer funeral.
During the service, Johnson’s friend and Academy mate, Dave Solis, said words that will stick with me for quite some time:
Choose to live differently. Don’t wait for your funeral to be a hero. You can honor Mike that way.
Often when it comes to police funerals, the departed are (rightfully so) heralded as heroes. While that is a wonderful and appropriate sentiment, and in conjunction with what Dave Solis said, it got me wondering…do we have to die to be heroes in the public eye? In the eyes of our brothers? In our own eyes?
[Tweet “What makes a Hero?”]
As a society, we are obsessed with heroes. We even make them “super”. We can’t go a week without hearing about the latest superhero flick (which I love, by the way) or some crossover/addition between Marvel and DC.
But, that isn’t reality. It’s escapism.
Don’t get me wrong, I love escapism as much as the next guy. But that wasn’t on my mind while I listened to Officer Johnson’s sister talking about her baby brother.
I was thinking about everyday heroes.
In the cop biz we joke at the scene of a crash when Fire is on their way. We’ll tell the involved parties, “Hear those sirens? The heroes will be here any second. You’ll be fine.” It’s just first responders giving other first responders the business, as it were.
The truth of the matter is I think they are heroes. Growing up in a firehouse, I saw the humanity beneath the turnouts and the tears under the air mask. But people like my dad and my best buddy, Justin, and his dad showed up day in and day out to do it all over again.
Spending the last 16 years as a cop, I’ve seen more humanity than I care to, quite frankly. But folks just like me go 10-8 every day.
Are we heroes?
Not if you ask us.
Besides, I don’t think that’s the kind of heroism to which Dave Solis was referring. He and Officer Johnson’s sister spoke of Johnson’s lust for life. His willingness to go places and do things that other folks would shy away from.
Johnson experienced life. He drunk it in. He lived it to its fullest.
That is heroic.
One of the definitions of heroic is being “extraordinarily bold or daring”.
Officer Johnson’s life was just that. He was indeed extraordinarily bold and daring. Not because he was a police officer, though. It was because that was just the way he chose to take on life.
I know many of you that read these words are cops, firefighters, and medics. I know many of you are civilians with a desire to support those of us that are first responders. Some of you reading this may have been at Officer Johnson’s service along with me. Some may have watched it on TV. Some may only know about it because of what you just read.
No matter how you came to be here, I encourage you to be bold today. Be daring.
You can honor Officer Johnson in that way.
What makes a hero?
Go out today and find out for yourself.