As I poured over the Internet for news this morning about the devastating storms that ripped through the South and Southeast overnight, I learned about a Louisiana police officer who died as a result of the storms; he died in the line of duty, not as a law enforcement official, but from a higher, more powerful calling – in the line of duty as a parent. While the NY Daily News article did not have or release the father’s name, National Park Service supervisor Kim Korthuis stated the father, camping with his 9-year old daughter in Choctaw County Mississippi, used his body to shield the girl when a tree fell on their tent. A bystander and campsite volunteer confirmed the girl was unharmed, only wet, and obviously scared.
It is always tough to read about a soldier, police officer, fire fighter, first responder, or others who willing serve others so that we may all live with more assurance, who dies in the line of her or his duties; however, and no doubt being a parent is in and of itself a bias, there is something so striking, so innately primal and instinctive about the protection of a child – especially your own – that in some instant, bizarre and macabre thought, I began to question how not to rank but to recognize this level of “service”.
When a soldier or police officer dies, especially in the line of duty, very rightful, respectful and solemn honors are paid to the fallen. I have seen many memorial services for people from many backgrounds of service and duty over the years, but I cannot begin to fathom a rightful, respectful and honorable service for a parent who dies in the line of duty; nothing seems to come close to honorific enough. A flag may drape his coffin, bagpipes may play Amazing Grace or Taps, guns may fire in salute to his service, but what will truly honor his ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty as a parent?
I know it is a huge digression from the devastation and other sad news surrounding the storms in the area for many, but I think some of those who have served and some of those who are parents too will understand the philosophical dilemma so to speak. When my time is up, military and masonic honors conveyed and that folded flag presented to my children, I certainly want them to be cognizant and hopefully proud of my service, but I hope I have done them a better service simply as their parent.
Maybe there is no appropriate honor we can bestow upon this yet named champion, but rest assured that no one will ever be able to define amply terms like sacrifice, hero, service, and parent to his little girl that her father’s line of duty and ultimate deed as a parent has taught and will resonate with her and others for lifetimes to come.