Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Open Letter to Leon County Sheriff, Larry Campbell

In response to Sheriff Campbell's reply to me stating I would hear in the news tonight that the escort policy for military personnel would be allowed.

Dear Sheriff Campbell,

Better late than never, I always say. I can overlook the length of time it took, and the effort it took from us to bring this issue to the forefront. Changing the policy was the only decision that could be made, and is appreciated by many families to come.

Chief Jones' statement that it is only smaller cities that provide escorts is incorrect. Jacksonville is always there in full force when needed, as are many other cities in Florida that are much larger than Tallahassee. No matter. The policy is changed and that is what's important today.

What I find hard to overlook is your comment printed in the paper that football games take precedence. There are ways to cover both by working with other counties. The likelihood that both will happen on the same day is remote, but routes can be planned to avoid the city - any number of things. I'm certain the families would agree to be flexible so that they can be accommodated. And I would expect you to be innovative in a situation like that.

Making that statement was uncalled for, and takes all of the goodwill out of your actions in changing this policy. Was that really necessary? Who was that directed at? The outrage originated from escorts provided to sports teams but not fallen heroes. That statement makes it very hard to see you in a different light, Sir.

In spite of any conflict in providing escorts for military personnel, it is you and Chief Jones who will bear the public scrutiny; good or bad, depending on your actions in a given situation. What you say and do in the public eye sets a precedence for others, and this town already has a piss-poor attitude when it comes to our military, which was evident in the shouts and threats we received by motorists who had to wait the extra few minutes for the procession to pass. Do you think this town's sports fans would feel any differently about a fallen officer on your force? No, not unless you do. When push comes to shove, I stand for any soldier who dies in the war over any fanatic who can't contain themselves over a football game. For they choose to attend a football game, our soldiers don't choose to die in Iraq.

It is a sad day when a law enforcement officer loses his or her life. My heart and prayers go to all in this regard. Soldiers are no different, except their daily lives are far worse. They don't get to go home at night to their families, and many never see them again. The majority of them have not even lived long enough to have their own families, other than parents and siblings.

Those who ride with the Patriot Guard do not put their personal lives before these soldiers and their families, and the risks we have taken in escorting them is part of that. I would expect the same from our law enforcement, who are paid as public servants.

I'm not a Veteran, but I've lost loved ones in every major war since WWII. All were spit upon and dishonored. It is time for this country to STOP the disrespect, and understand that it is not about whether the war is right or wrong, it is about those who die in them, their service, and the families who love them. And you are in a position to help that change. Let's move forward and do the right thing.


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