Make a tight fist and hold it while you count down, “five, four, three, two, one.” Now make an even tighter fist and hold it, counting three, two, one. Good. Now relax your fist. What did you observe from that little exercise? It’s a very good bet that even though you made a tight fist the first time, you were able to conjure up even more energy to make the fist tighter.
The brain is an exquisite tool which is naturally hardwired to facilitate your survival. Even though you consciously made the fist a “tight” fist, you subconsciously held some of your strength in reserve, just in case. It is important to note there nearly always is a reserve left if one chooses to access it. At one time or another, the trainers and coaches in your past may have shouted for you to “Dig Deep!” — urging you to call upon your reserve — and when you were urged to do so you found you had more to give.
Some of my favorite cases of law enforcement officers digging deep are:
Sgt. Marcus Young — The Ukiah California officer, who although he was ambushed while making a shoplifting arrest, and was shot and stabbed, fought back and directed a ride-along to remove his weapon from the sergeant’s holster and lay it into Marcus Young’s reaction hand. Sgt. Young shot and killed his attacker.
Katie Conway — The Cincinnati Police Officer, who after being ambushed, shot repeatedly and beaten was able to access her firearm and shoot and kill her attacker twice as he careened a squad car aimlessly through the City of Cincinnati at high speeds. Both rounds were head shots and entered the same hole.
Edmundo Morales — The FBI agent who was badly wounded in the famous Miami shootout, who taught himself to cycle a pump action shotgun with one hand during a blazing gun battle. This deadly encounter had already killed two of his fellow agents and had badly wounded one other. He finished the gunfight by wounding one suspect with shotgun blasts fired one-handed. He then advanced on the two suspects, who were trying to flee in a vehicle, and finished the fight with headshots fired from his hand gun.
Unnamed Officers — Many officers have sat in their basements, service pistols in hand, overwhelmed by professional and personal pressures. They’ve briefly thought that the seductress death seemed more desirable than plodding through even one more day of life. Somehow, though, these officers thought of those who they were about to leave behind to carry on without them, and set their duty weapons down. They managed to make it through one more day, which led to another and another. They rejoice in making the decision for life. Moreover, they now know that they have a particular insight that allows them to help others in need.
Colonel Hal Moore used to say, “There is always one more thing that you can do!” We do not know what challenges lie ahead for us physically, legally, mentally, or emotionally. We only know that in choosing a career in law enforcement we have chosen a life which presents challenges that will take us often to that mud room between life and death. If you ever feel tempted to give up, make a fist, dig deep, and draw from that reserve.
After you have survived such a moment you will discover a time when water tastes sweeter, your child’s laughter will sound like beautiful music, and you will find great satisfaction in holding your loved one’s hand. You can’t enjoy one moment, without surviving the other.
So as Winston Churchill once said — as the entire free world was tottering on the brink — “Never, never, never, never give up!”