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Lt. Col. Dave Grossman on 'living with the sacrifice'

To injured and disabled officers, Grossman says, 'the greater the burden, the greater the honor of being triumphant when you come out the other end'

“When someone injures you because you wear a uniform — any uniform — that is war.” Strong words from Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, author of On Combat and On Killing.

Grossman made famous the sheepdog analogy likening law enforcers to sheepdogs protecting their flock of sheep (the citizens) from the wolves (the crooks.) He encourages injured, disabled, and all retired officers to continue tending to their flock as sheepdogs. “Carry your lifesaving tools on your body. Even if it’s just protecting your own grand kids. It will be a better, safer place where ever you happen to be.”

Retired officers — whether medically retired or otherwise — can carry under H.R. 218. Grossman reminds you that you are still a Warrior and urges you to go to the range and stay certified.

“Firing from a wheelchair is an extremely stable platform,” Grossman said. “It’s almost like cheating.”

If you are unable to carry a handgun, Grossman points out there are many facets that enable the officer to remain a sheepdog.

Use your training and experience to secure those in your community. Be the eyes and ears of your neighborhood.

Use your skills and instincts when you are out and about. You might detect danger before the average citizen knows what hit them. Don’t holster your skills, and years of street smarts, just because you are retired or out on injury leave.

The badge, uniform, and handgun do not make a police officer a sheepdog. Warriorship is a mindset and a way of life. Don’t let injuries prevent you from being ready for what Grossman calls that “moment of truth.”

Grossman cites that in these violent times — where police officers are the soldiers in the war right here at home — all warriors must rise to the challenge and reaffirm that “it won’t happen on my beat.” And you don’t have to be an active, sworn officer to have a beat.

Caregivers of injured officers maintain a special place in Grossman’s heart because they “serve those who serve.” Officers’ families are Warriors and can be empowered by Warrior ethos. “Sacrificing for those who have sacrificed for us is the ultimate service.”

He advises families of injured officers to reach out to military families, groups, and agencies for support. Sheepdogs will not turn their backs on wounded warriors.

“We must honor, respect, and support injured officers.” Grossman explains that the military honors wounded warriors as part of their duty. Law enforcement needs to step up to the task by setting policy and procedures that mandate such respect. “It must become DNA of the institution.”

Leaders must stand by injured officers from the beginning and plant seeds of expected behavior for other officers. Peer support is vital — Grossman encourages leaders to create rosters assigning officers to check on wounded warriors within their agencies on a rotating basis. All officers, especially those with previous injuries, must act as sheepdogs to those who have most recently been injured.

Grossman counsels those living with the sacrifice to allow themselves to be human, emotional beings. “The rational part has to forgive the emotional part.”

Grieving and denial are part of the process for a wounded warrior. So is anger. “Forgive yourself. Your failings. In a moment of need, don’t be afraid to lean on others.”

Grossman emphasizes that post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is used too lightly in both the military and law enforcement. Reacting emotionally to the darkness warriors see is normal human behavior. “No pity party and no macho officers.” No shame in asking for help and no feeling sorry for yourself.

“We must reinforce the message that people walk away from combat as stronger human beings. They deal with it and become stronger on the other end. It’ll take a lot more to knock them down the next time.”

Grossman maintains PTSD is a normal part of healing, not a pathology to be feared or cause for embarrassment. To injured and disabled officers, Grossman says, “the greater the burden, the greater the honor of being triumphant when you come out the other end.”

During his famous seminars, Grossman often speaks about the nobility of those who go into harms way so others can live and tells the tale of an officer who gave his life in the line of duty. He points out to his audience that this officer is not a hero because he died that day. “He’s a hero because he walked out the door everyday prepared to lay down his life.”

This nobility applies to every officer; current, those living with the sacrifice, and otherwise retired. Grossman reminds all officers that serving as a sheepdog is not about the uniform you currently wear, or no longer can wear. Being a sheepdog is ultimately about mindset.

Empower yourself to remain a warrior and a sheepdog.

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