Photo Gallery | State Trooper Bobby Smith's 'Vision of Courage' - Emotionally Gripping True Story!
As a Contributor to News10 My Neighborhood since May 2011, I have only once written an article speaking directly from my heart, and that article was taken from the perspective of one walking the path to the highest summit of Foresthill Bridge, 734 feet in height, with thoughts of plummeting into the waters below, as did a young medical student three months prior, having taken his life. I realized there was not a visible sign facing the walker, shining as a beacon, offering a moment’s pause to reflect and pick up a life-line awaiting him.
Within three weeks, this was remedied and signs were placed, facing those walking to the midsection of the bridge’s span across the North Fork of the American River, with newly installed, bright yellow crisis phones awaiting the cry of one needing help! That was easy! A sign to direct you on what to do in a time of crisis!
Well, today was the day that State Trooper Bobby Smith touched many lives, mine included, for his story resonated with each of us. As Bobby Smith shared with those who are presently officers in law enforcement, an attentive stillness filled the hearts and minds. In some instances heads were bowed, because as Smith warned…”are you ready to look into the mirror and see you, who you are, and not who you think you are?” ~ A reality that can reflect an unrecognizable image for some.
You see, State Trooper Bobby Smith introduced a concept that our officers, once sworn in, easily forget…they are now transformed into a role…the role of protector and public servant in society; the persona adopted by officers is one of strength of will, great authority, preserved in armor which soon alienates the officer from his heart, his faith in humanity – his family of wife and children he has been blessed with. His compassion is stilted, first on the outside and then on the inside…he feels compassion for his fellow man, but dares not show feelings to others, as he cannot afford to look “weak” and worst – he cannot afford to look “weak” to himself. Herein the home of denial becomes the veil between the reality he experiences in scenes where he has just witnessed his first fatality, the child who has taken his last breath in his arms, a call to domestic violence where the remnants of a battering are seen, a youth who once played on his son’s basketball team, now hangs from beams within a garage.
As Smith so eloquently sums this – all of these scenes in the mind and heart an officer has to live with, cannot be lived with. There is the convenient dark closet of memories in his subconscious that are stored, tucked far away, the ones he cannot share with anyone…after all, who would want to hear this, is the question in his mind: His family members? The church members he sees only weekly for an hour? His law enforcement buddies as they share a beer? No…they have the same memories, the same closets in their emotional homes. The living secret:
Ignore it, keep it tightly locked away and it’s gone. Poof! Not there, right?
As Smith tells his story, having to be a hero to his community, keep earning respect from his fellow-officers, wear his uniform without blemishes – especially emotional – he warns officers - there is a price to hiding his human feelings. That emotional closet does not protect you from your memories of sights, smells, sounds, but becomes your chamber of horrors, not honors, that you will live with every minute – a chamber from which you cannot escape, because you don’t even know you are in it…until…the price tag appears:
Smith’s price is one which he pays every breathing moment of his life costing him two marriages – two lovely wives he adored and one beautiful child…and finally living up to the pledge of being a badge within a uniform, he being that strong officer needing no one, went on a call, warding off backup ~ His price: he was shot in the face losing his eyesight permanently – his ‘bravado image that comes with the territory’ – paraphrasing Smith- cost him so dearly, leaving him with his law enforcement family that no longer had room for him…he was no longer needed…he no longer had value. He was not a human being, but a servant to a role that no longer existed for him.
Smith’s image was now in complete darkness and he found himself living within the closet that was holding him hostage. He, like so many members of law enforcement became besieged by that safe, ‘emotional closet’ which soon overflows.
This overflow now is turned on family members who no longer recognize their spouse or family member – Where is the sign for a crisis call for an officer?
It is here for you! It is here for your family. Law Enforcement Chaplains of Sacramento are there for you, to listen, to offer guidance, referrals, with confidentiality and much love! There are referrals which can be made to PTSD counselors and peer support who understand those dark closets. YOU are not alone! Only YOU can choose NOT to be alone. Your family can choose not to be ALONE and in the dark, as well.
State Trooper Bobby Smith appeals to all in the audience…the dark closet must be opened, must be sorted through, and as darkness is but a mere lack of light, the nightmares, the ghosts that haunt the peace you provide others, are willed “be-gone” once the door is opened, and the healing of spirit and emotions begin.
Officers can be restored to health, emotionally and physically, marriages can be restored, with the greatest goal: wear all hats in your life: The order is not important, but ALL are who you are. Do not forget you are you, first and foremost!
- You wear a cap named: “Husband” or “Wife”
- You wear a cap named: “Dad” or “Mom”
- You wear a cap named: “Law Enforcement Officer”
I, personally, am grateful to Bobby Smith’s truths he shared about himself, his life, and what he faced, as he adopted one role in life: An Officer of the Law. Having been married to a law enforcement officer, ending in separation after 22 years, I realize that I, too, share that dark closet. There is a light that awaits me, as well. I now understand that I, too, have suffered his post traumatic stress. A counseling appointment awaits me as I write this article.
Lisa O’Hara, Contributor
News10 My Neighborhood
This article is written with the intent to paraphrase only, State Trooper Bobby Smith.