Police Academy Graduation and Speech

Officer and Mrs. Stewart

Mr. S. made me the proudest wife (once again) in November of 2013 when he graduated from the Metro Nashville Police Academy.

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Mayor Karl Dean swearing in the class as they transformed from officer candidates to full-fledged Police Officers.

Though he’s been through some of the toughest training the military has to offer, the Academy was no picnic and lasted for 6 loooong months.

Stress, law studying, boot polishing, uniform pressing, lunch packing, flash-card making, early mornings, late nights, and more characterized those days. Week by week, it seemed that we barely had time to look at, much less truly talk to, each other. Our mentality was, “Just suck it up and get through this.” Thanks to the military, this is an attitude we are familiar with as a family.

We found that, when you go through a period like this in your marriage, it is worth making time. Even if that means waking up too early, going to bed too late, or missing out on something else important. We know this not because we are naturally a wise super couple, but because we made the mistake of not intentionally making time for each other at first. Ever look at your spouse after busily scurrying around all day each day, panting, trying to just ‘survive’ and think, “Oh, yeah! We’re supposed to, like, talk to each other.” 🙂

Mr. S's family
Mr. S’s family

The rigorous training wasn’t necessarily enjoyable, but it gave my husband skills to stay safe, police with fairness, and invaluable knowledge. For that, the academy and its instructors have my deepest gratitude The period of trial was more than worth enduring.

The experience grew me, too, as I learned to be thankful for the time I spent helping Mr. S. Scrambling to help him late each night (let’s be real, guys, early mornings usually weren’t happening for me) was a blessing. It grew me by forcing me to focus on someone else, and took my mind off of myself. We gave each other high-fives and I saw his little victories (ex: passing inspection or simply not being called out individually for a screaming session during the day) as our victories.

Mr. S was elected Class Leader by his classmates, an honor that really just means more responsibility and a LOT more punishment. Can you just picture his weariness at the end of each day? Praise God that His mercies are new each morning. We always had enough to dig in and get through the day.

Upon graduating, it was his job as Class Leader to give a speech. He worked diligently to plan a message that reflected the values of Metro Nashville Police Department and the strengths of both the academy and his graduating class. I was genuinely impressed with his speech (no really, I’ve been known to proof read his papers and leave uplifting comments like, “What even is this? What a mess.”) and more than anything, loved hearing the respect and admiration he has for others who serve with honor.

We knew that would be a (nerve-wracking) highlight of Session 72’s graduation ceremony, but were surprised to see him receive both a Leadership and Fitness award. I loved seeing him calmly give a speech in front of some important people, but walk up the steps red-faced and shocked to accept the awards. He hates surprise recognition, while I think I’d probably jump up and down, squeal with glee, and run up the stairs with unbridled enthusiasm like a dork. This is probably why we’re each better suited to our own respective professions.

Below is a transcript of his speech (I’m not tech-savvy enough to put a video on this blog):

            Throughout the course of our training at the Academy, but especially during the first few weeks, we endured trials and hardships that most of us were not used to. Just when we thought the physical and mental pressure was at its peak, it became a little more difficult. Early on, one of the lines commonly heard from the training staff was, “are you just here for a paycheck?” Speaking for myself, I honestly thought, “Yeah, that’s probably a big part of why I’m here.”

            It wasn’t until about a month later that my understanding of the purpose of the experience began to change. I learned that a friend from the Army, SGT Stephen Michael New, had died serving in Afghanistan. Stephen was a Special Forces Medic in the 20th Special Forces group and had also served in the 75th Ranger Regiment. As I thought more about a friend who I had shared a meal with only months before, I simultaneously learned about police officers who had also made great sacrifices. I realized that nobody, myself included, would become a police officer for a paycheck.

           Following the death of SGT New, and during our training at the academy, I was reminded of this separate class of citizens who have chosen to sacrifice more than most. Police Officers choose their occupation knowing that it will be difficult, They won’t receive enough pay for what they do, they’ll work odd hours, miss holidays with their families, and will be placed in volatile and dangerous situations. They’ll put themselves in harm’s way, not for pay, but for the higher gratification of serving others. These are the men and women who have decided to put their focus on service rather than self.  I now recognize that, from day one, the training staff was intentionally instilling this mindset within us.  

            One day after a long training run, where it was all some of us could do to keep going, Officer Willis said, “I could give you a million dollars but if you act broke you will still be broke.” Just as a man can be unhappy and dissatisfied in spite of enjoying the best of circumstances, as a police officer, we too could choose to either make the best of the tasks set before us, or to buckle under pressure.  

            Over time, the stress inoculation, hardships, and training began to make sense and Individuals who were not prepared, chose to give up. Those of us remaining grew as a team and were molded into police officers with a courageous mindset. A mindset where, when you are tired, you choose to push through. When you’re afraid, you overcome that fear and drive on. When you feel beaten, and it feels like you don’t have anything left, you summon the courage to stand up and continue.  This is the mindset that session 72 should strive to maintain as we begin our careers as Police Officers, because great men and women before us like SGT New, and fallen officers like Paul Scurry, Candace Ripp, Christy Dedman and others before them have set the example that we should follow.

            I speak for all of us in session 72 when I say thank you to friends and family for your support, the command staff for giving us this opportunity, and the members of the training staff who committed themselves to making us the kind of officers that Metro can be proud of: officers who know what it means to serve… to sacrifice…and to overcome.”

(Insert MIC DROP, walk away, slow clap…)  😉

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