Sheepdogs gotta sheepdog: The military to first responder pipeline

We need to stop treating veterans who pursue careers in law enforcement like the ones that didn‘t make it

Sheepdogs gotta sheepdog: The military to first responder pipeline

Photo by Todd Lucier/Flickr

By Jeff Edwards

Most people recognize it if you talk them through it. That is, the premise that our law enforcement and first responder community is full of military veterans.

Now, it is not that these communities are exclusive to military veterans. But I am just saying if you give an Ooh Rah to the cop that just pulled you over, there is a pretty good chance he responds back with Semper Fi. Or if he is Army he will say hooah back and give you a ticket just to stick it to the Marine Corps.

But the point is, for many of the sheepdogs that protect you today, this is not their first rodeo at being a sheepdog. There is an almost natural progression from the military community to these high risk jobs here at home and I am just here today to argue that you should be thankful that is so. Oh and one last thing before we proceed. If the cop that pulled you over is actually Coast Guard, be sure and ask him why he decided to join the Coast Guard instead of the military. He will love that, I promise! Moving on.

Condescending Assumptions

Now I feel like I need to clear up a certain point before we move further. Namely, first responder jobs are not a fallback job for veterans. You might think this is obvious, but I can‘t tell you how many times I hear the premise expressed in a condescending manner. Let me play this out in dialogue for you:

Stranger: “What do you do for a living?”
Veteran: “I was in the military but I just got out.”
Stranger: “Oh, well I‘m sorry, I guess you can get a job as a cop or something like that you poor untrained soul.”
Myself: “Hello stranger, let me offer you a throat punch.”

You see, quite often the civilian world has this misguided assumption that veterans will chose law enforcement because they are somehow ill-equipped to do anything else. This premise is absurd, condescending, and steeped in the ignorance of what veterans are fully capable.

This insult is typically directed more often than not at our grunt community, aka infantry. The idea that if you are grunt, then you must be dumb and strong has been proven wrong by oh...I don‘t know...every war we have ever fought. Grunts make insanely complex decisions in insanely high pressure environments, and yet you think your business degree from your daddy‘s alma mater somehow makes you the only one suitable for leadership. Throat punch time fellas, throat punch.

Sheepdog Time!

Now, a quick confession: When I left the Marines after returning from Iraq in 2003, I did not join the law enforcement or first responder community. I actually worked at a non-profit for emotionally disturbed youth. However, many of my fellow Marines jumped right on the pipeline of which I speak.

Why? Because Sheepdogs gotta Sheepdog, that‘s why.

Ladies and gentlemen, the men and women that serve you now as veterans and current sheepdogs are there by choice, not a lack of options. They are there because protecting the weak and throwing their lives in danger comes as naturally to them as computers does to Bill Gates. They just get paid a little less. Now if we could only get city governments to keep that in mind as they proceed to slash their benefits and pay.

That is, they choose to wrestle naked crackheads and kick in doors on search warrants for many of the same reasons they opted for the screams of a drill instructor instead of a frat party right out of high school. Their nature &mdash unlike that of many Americans — leads them to fight instead of flight. My goodness, they do it because they don‘t piss their pants at the first sign of aggression. We should be thankful that such men and women exist rather than treat them as unskilled labor. Because they have skills alright, it is just sometimes more the kind that Liam Neeson was talking about in Taken than accounting.

The Conclusion

Look America, veterans are capable of so much. Again, I am not in the first responder community and nor are most veterans for that matter. We all go on to lead and change the world in our own way. However, stop treating veterans who pursue careers in law enforcement like the ones that didn‘t make it.

No, they are the ones who made it just fine. Just because your daddy called his old frat buddy to get you a high paying job after 4 years of keg stands in college doesn‘t mean you have any right to look down on the men and women who provide the blanket of security under which you sleep. Sheepdogs gotta Sheepdog people. The rest of the world would do well to treat them as men and women of calling. Because when evil finds its way to your door, you can call your frat buddy if you want, but as for me, it's Sheepdog Time.