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How I got from ambush to affirmation

It took an almost eleven month recovery process, but Deputy Marshal Stephen Brady is glad to be back on the job

Editor's Note: As part of our year-end coverage, we look back at some of the biggest and most heroic news stories, and reconnect with some of the officers and departments involved in the incidents to find out what has developed since, and how the department has faired in the days and months following. In this article, Officer Steve Brady recounts the early morning hours of December 15th, 2011 when he was ambushed and shot in the face and the road to recovery he had to follow in 2012. 

By Deputy Marshal Stephen Brady
Waterloo Police Department

WATERLOO, Ind. — I believe it’s safe to say that we all periodically experience significant or life changing events.  Some events are positive and uplifting, such as having children or buying a home for the first time. Other events are more adverse, such as losing a job, or in my opinion one of the worst events to experience, the death of a close family member.

How each of us copes with such experiences is very much an individual thing.

I believe that what we learn, and what we take away from these events, is in many ways as important as the events themselves.

Some of my earliest memories in my life surround my first life changing event. At the tender age of six, my dear mother was taken from me and my family — the victim of a homicide.

My most recent life changing event occurred in the early morning hours of December 15th, 2011. I was on duty, and shot upon encountering two individuals on a call for service.

Without going into detail due to upcoming criminal trial, I will just say that I was ambushed when one of the individuals used a revolver to shoot me in the side of my face. I remember well the circumstances leading to that moment, and many immediately following it.

Things I have learned, and/or taken away from this event are too numerous to even begin to attempt to elaborate on them all. Not to mention that almost a year later, I still learn, contemplate, and experience things stemming from this incident. 

That said, I feel one of the greatest things I have gained from this event and the many things following it, is affirmation.

I feel an affirmation in many core beliefs. Belief that there are truly bad people in this world — and that evil does exist — in many ways.

Belief that there are truly good people in this world, and that they far outnumber the bad. Belief that our profession is truly a dangerous one, no matter the size of your agency or community served, no matter full time or reserve.

Affirmation to the paramount importance of training. Affirmation that mindset is crucial to outcomes of critical and/or potential life and death events.

Affirmation of family. My friends and family have been instrumental in my recovery, my wife Jan more so than anyone. Affirmation of my brothers and sisters in the law enforcement community. And affirmation (and testing) of my religious faith.

It took an almost eleven month recovery process, but I am glad to be back on the job. I really do not view my profession any differently, nor the world in which I do it. I do have constant reminders of what happened that December morning.

Many are present every waking moment of every day. I have some permanent vision loss in my left eye, and some permanent hearing loss in my left ear, although neither is enough to deter me from the job.

I have other remnants as well, such as titanium mesh and screws, some small bullet fragments inside my head, limited jaw movement, and so on. However, I always know there are many, many others in this world who have had far worse experiences, and face far greater challenges than mine.  

That in mind, I’d like to share one final thought. I have had many people refer to me as a hero. I am not. I’m just a cop doing my job. To me the real heroes are the members of our armed services, and our nations “first responders.”

Always remember those that never got to come home from their last watch.

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