Appreciate those who serve

By Clyde Davis: Local Columnist

James V. Spignesi Jr. was a Connecticut fish and game law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty. As he and his partner were patrolling, investigating suspected deer poaching, a deliberate shot from a rifle ended the life of this father, son and husband.

Spignesi stands as a symbol of those men and women who daily put their lives on the line for the safety the rest of us.

When I read of this event, on a chat room frequented by outdoor lovers, I thought not only about Spignesi but the wider implications.

First, of course, the idea anyone would willingly take a human life over an illegally harvested deer is beyond my moral understanding. Many may remember that, slightly more than a year ago, there was a major poaching incident and resultant arrest in Curry County. While I am sure the fellow arrested was not happy, to his credit he took his penalty and did not commit the sin of murdering or harming another human.

Second, moving beyond the realm of wildlife law enforcement, we should look with gratitude at all who lay their lives on the line. I would generally consider game officer to be a fairly safe career. Others whose lives are on the line every day, whom we do not always think about, might include police officers, security personnel, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and flight nurses.

A certain amount of risk is inherent in any area of life. We all, I assume, appreciate the men and women in the military ready to place their lives at risk for the sake of the freedom all of us enjoy. But in looking at both of these truths, we can’t overlook the heroes at home, who take on potentially dangerous challenges every day.

In an ideal world, we would not need police officers, military, nor, for that matter, fish and game officers. In an ideal world, everyone would play by the rules, but since this is not so, never has been and never will be, we are protected by those who take a calculated risk every time they go to work.

Are there small things we can do to show our appreciation? Perhaps cooperation would top the list. If you are hunting or fishing, don’t see it as such an imposition if you are asked to show your license. If you come upon a DWI checkpoint, and the officers stop you, don’t feel yourself put upon, which is a reaction I have seen sometimes, and even been guilty of myself. That 5-minute delay you have to go through could pull someone off the road who is endangering you and others.

Courtesy would be the logical next step. There is really no reason to display rudeness, even if you are cooperating. Most of us do not like to be treated rudely when doing our jobs, and the people we are mentioning today are no exception.

Finally, compassion is needed for the families and the ones impacted when and if something goes wrong. Firefighters and EMTs are killed in emergency response to accidents. Police officers are injured in traffic and occasionally deliberately attacked.

When this kind of thing happens — and it has in our community — a responsive outpouring of gratitude reminds them that they are appreciated.

I was touched, and saddened, to read the story of Spignesi. It reminded me, though, that those who serve at risk should not be taken for granted.