Friday, February 5, 2016

The shield gets heavy

Ever since I was a little kid I loved old Popeye cartoons

I especially loved when things were bad, our hero was at a low and it looked like all was about to be lost.  He never gave up and somehow found a way to win.  

With Popeye it was usually through spinach.  Then boom! - Que theme song.  Our hero kicks the crap out of the bully that has been tormenting him.

I always had to be Popeye when we played Popeye

That was one of the things I loved about Star Wars.  The Rebel base is about to be destroyed by the Empire. Then boom! They blow up the Death Star- Que theme song.

I always had to be Luke Skywalker when we played Star Wars.

That was one of the themes I loved from the movie "300".

The narration makes it seem as if Leonidas is giving up.  He takes off his helmet, he sets down his shield, it looks like he is about to bend a knee to Xerxes.

Just as it looked like all was lost the narrator explains - 
"His helmet was stifling, it narrowed his vision. And he must see far. His shield was heavy. It threw him off balance. And his target is far away.

Then Leonidas throws the spear that strikes Xerxes and shows all that a god king can bleed.

The shield gets heavy has become a theme for me.  When the profession becomes difficult (wearing a shield gets hard) I remind myself that I have the strength to lift it up.

King Leonidas: Raise your shield as high as you can.
[Ephialtes tries to raise his shield; he cannot as his physical disability prevents it]
King Leonidas: [calmly] Your father should have taught you how our phalanx works. We fight as a single, impenetrable unit. That is the source of our strength. Each Spartan protects the man to his left from thigh to neck with his shield.
[Leonidas takes his sword and shield to demonstrate]
King Leonidas: A single weak spot and the phalanx shatters. From thigh to neck, Ephialtes.

King Leonidas: I am sorry, my friend; but not all of us were made to be soldiers.

Xerxes:Unlike the cruel Leonidas, who demanded that you stand, I require only that you kneel.

I will never give up, I'll find a way to win.  It may be heavy but I will lift the shield.  I will protect my brother, I will not yield.

As I get older I have come to realize that the burden of carrying that shield is also born by those around me.

More than a wanna be tough guy, comic book mantra is needed to help them.

I first encountered this a few years ago with my oldest daughter and wrote about it here.

Fear of death from a different perspective

I should have expected that when the middle child got to an age where my job isn't just an abstract concept (somewhere daddy is when he isn't at home) I'd have to have a similar conversation. Somehow I didn't see it coming.

I guess I assumed because I had the conversation with the oldest  the middle one somehow knew.  I assumed wrong. 

It happened on Friday

The girls got out of school early on Thursday and didn't have school on Friday.  Which means they got to go to the Dojo Thursday night.  Thursday nights at the Dojo are open mat / VPPG (Violence Prone Play Group).  That is nothing new, the girls regularly come to the Dojo on Thursday nights.  I have been working on the Violence Dynamics curriculum with them.  Learning through play.  I'll play a game or go over a drill with them.  Then I'll go work with the adults and Lise will come over and work with them.  Then I'll work with Lise and the girls are free to play among themselves.

What made this Thursday special is with no school Friday morning the girls could go upstairs to the VFW post after class and enjoy free popcorn, jukebox, and pool.     

It was a slow night and we had the whole bar to ourselves.  So the girls learned to play pool and we had impromptu lip sync and air / pool stick guitar competitions.  I was undefeated in all the previously mentioned events.

We closed the place down.  Don't get crazy we closed it down at 10pm.

The next day we all went to go see Kung Fu Panda 3


Then we went out to eat at Texas Road House.

I am a fortunate guy.  Where I am going with this is we were having a very cool weekend enjoying the company of family.

When we got home we settled in and started watching a Justice League DVD we have been meaning to get to... When the pager goes off.  OK, that is an outdated phrase.  I got a text alert on my phone.  The SWAT team is being activated.

I told the girls I had to go to work.
The youngest one said what do you mean you have to go to work, it is night.  
I've worked days her entire life.
I explained that there were bad guys doing dangerous things and I have to stop them.

The page was like the Bat Signal

She asked how I was going to stop them.
The oldest responded matter of factly - how do you think he is gong to stop them?, with guns duh.

As we were having this conversation, my wife came down and asked if I got the page.  The paging system goes to her phone as well in case I'm asleep or my phone is dead
The weight of the shield bears on her as well.

I didn't have any more time for talking I had to get going.  
As I was getting dressed I heard crying

I assumed it was the youngest one
I assumed wrong

"Goodbye my love." He doesn't say it. There's no room for softness... not in Sparta. No place for weakness. Only the hard and strong may call themselves Spartans. Only the hard, only the strong.
 - Dilios "300"

I arrived at the staging area and was put in charge of a team, made up of some of our newest guys.  I was also responsible for Officers already on scene.  I tend to lead by coaching.  So I explained to my guys what  I was doing while I was doing it.  One so they can help me see if there any holes in the plan I may be  missing from my perspective.  Two to teach them how to do it when they are in my position.  Standing by to stand by can be tedious, having something constructive to do is a benefit. 

So we established an arrest plan.  Coordinated with the other teams. Developed alternate plans based on how other similar calls went.  With the conversation I had with my daughters still freshly in my mind, it occurred to me that these guys might be nervous.  There is a guy in there with a gun who tried to murder someone hours earlier.

Explaining what  I was doing while I was doing it  also helps to assure my guys, that although we are doing a dangerous thing, we are doing a dangerous thing in the smartest / safest manner possible.  I am doing everything I possibly can to bring them home safe.

Bad guy gave up and was taken into custody.  The house was cleared.  The team was debriefed.
Although it was late, I always call my wife when it is over to let her know I am safe.

The weight of the shield bears on her as well.

Hey, its me.  Bad guy in jail, no one hurt, no one killed, be home in about an hour.
OK, you are going to have to have a talk with your daughter when you get home.
( I saw this coming)

She was inconsolable after you left
Yeah, she had some questions when I was leaving.
No not that one, Sydney

I didn't see that coming.
Not Sydney.  Not my Wonder Woman

I guess I assumed because I had the conversation with the oldest the middle one somehow knew.  I assumed wrong.  

The weight of the shield bears on her as well.

Early the next morning I was awoken by her failed attempt at stealth as she she came in to check in on me.  Did Dad make it home last night?

I got up and asked her to come down stairs and help make breakfast.

After we scrambled up some eggs I let her know that Mom told me she had a rough time last night. 
I could see her struggle to control her emotions.  My eight year old daughter got up from the table and went to the bathroom so I wouldn't see her cry.

There's no room for softness... not in Sparta. No place for weakness. Only the hard and strong may call themselves Spartans. Only the hard, only the strong.
 - Dilios "300"

Fuck she is hard.  An 8 year old little girl refuses to cry in front of me.  I was a huge crybaby as a kid. Hell, I'm trying not to cry while I type this.

When our hero was at a low and it looked like all was about to be lost.  He never gave up and somehow found a way to win.  

When she came back I had her put on my plate carrier.

The shield is heavy.  The armor is heavy.  The weight of the armor bears on her as well.   The armor is heavy, I explain it has to be heavy it has to be to in order to protect me.  I explain that although I do dangerous things, I do them ithe smartest / safest manner possible.  I do everything I possibly can to come home safe.

*Preemptive arrogance trigger warning.  Give me a break I'm reassuring my little girl.  Also if you don't have confidence in yourself bordering on arrogance you shouldn't be kicking doors.*

I'm the best there is at what I do.
I explain to her why I lead teams in situations like this.  I explain why other teams hire me to train their guys.  I explain that all the time I spend in the Dojo, in the gym, on the range is fun to me, but ultimately is to help me to get home safe to her.

I remind her that we are a self selecting team.  Only the best of the best, that want to be there.  I remind her of guys she knows from the team and tell her about how good they are and how we make it a priority to look out for each other.

She takes the armor off and smiles.  I have a silent sigh of relief.  The shield is a little lighter.
The weight of the shield bears on her as well, she takes some of it off of me.
It may be heavy, but it has to be.  She will lift it. She will not yield.

There's no room for softness... not in Sparta. No place for weakness. Only the hard and strong may call themselves Spartans. Only the hard, only the strong.

Not everyone reading this has a high risk profession.  Good I'm glad the blog has a broader appeal. In order for this post to be more than just an outlet for me to get some thoughts out of my head it has to be useful to anyone reading this.

So how can this be useful?

No matter what your job, eventually you will have to have the talk with your kids.  Not the birds and bees talk, but the Mr Fishy, Fido, Grandma, eventually everything dies talk.

This Christmas we visited Grandma Great in Arizona.  She loves the Hallmark Chanel.  The Hallmark Chanel had a non stop Christmas movie marathon.  Not good Christmas movies like Die Hard, but romancy schmaltzy crap.  Anyway every commercial break Shriner's Hospitals had a commercial.  This commercial featured sick and dying kids.  Our four year old came to a rough realization that if little kids can die, then anyone can die.

Merry fucking Christmas little girl.  What am I supposed to tell her?

Well, truth be told Mom handled that one.
However, I feel that when you have to have this talk with anyone regardless of their age it is beneficial to steer the conversation away from the fear of death and to an appreciation and zeal for life.

In that vein I'll leave you with this - 

“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none.
When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”
~ Chief Tecumseh

Train hard, train smart, be safe.
Protect the man to your left from thigh to neck 


  1. When you talk about carrying weight, it's "bear" not "bare"

    Thanks for the heads up
    Good to have smart friends

  2. Very well and powerfully written. It's so easy to forget how our families, friends, and loved ones are impacted by and carry the weight of our calling. You've brought that home. (And brought something seems to have gotten in my eyes, too, reading it...)

  3. Here is one of my favorite Popeye come back type scenes