Whoolery: Growing up as the daughter of a SWAT sergeant

Monday morning, you’re driving to work and “Travis County Sergeant Shot and Killed” flashes across your phone screen. Your heart stops, your knees feel weak, your stomach is in knots and tears immediately fall from your face. You’re in shock. Your head is spinning and all you can think is “My dad is a Travis County Sergeant.”

You frantically call your Mom quietly chanting “please don’t be my Dad, please don’t be my Dad” over and over as the phone rings. In that moment you almost don’t want her to answer. You’re too afraid that if she does answer she’ll tell you your biggest fears have surfaced, that your dad was killed out of hate, anger, sin, and disgust by a criminal.

Those three daunting ringtones feel like hours, but then finally she answers. Your dad is okay. At least today. At least this fleeting Monday morning.

But even though your dad is okay, blue blood has been spilled. I wish I could adequately explain the pain I feel every day, but there are no words. There are no words to let the world understand what it’s like to be the daughter of a police officer. I know that sharing him is my job, so that he can protect complete strangers, but you get tired of asking God to bring him home each night, every time you pray.

With each passing day I have an increasing fear of losing my dad. You become fearful that he might not get to walk you down the aisle, be a grandfather to your future children, spend this coming Christmas with you, or worst of all, you become fearful that you won’t get to hear him say “I love you” again.

But when you’re a cop’s daughter, you put on a brave face and you accept that your dad has the greatest job in the world. You accept that he is a keeper of the peace and a hero.

In fact, at a young age you think it’s cool. He’s the dad that you get to bring to show and tell with his cop car and all your elementary school friends are jealous. You’re so young and mesmerized by those flashing cop car lights that you don’t realize the danger that comes with your Dad’s “cool” job. You aren’t old enough to realize that every day your Dad might not make it home for dinner. Why? Because every day he wakes up, puts on a uniform, looks at his family and chooses to leave them to protect and serve. He chooses to be selfless and lay down his life and risk never seeing his family again.

Years go on though and you get accustomed to your dad’s job. You get used to him always having his gun with him, facing the door at all times in a restaurant, and constantly being on high alert. There are no off days when you’re a police officer. His mentality of protecting people isn’t something he can turn off, it’s in his DNA.

This becomes the norm for you and your family, until you turn 11 when he gets a new job. He is now sergeant of the SWAT team and with that come a rush of uneasy feelings. He will be in even more danger now and every time his pager goes off for a call out you cry and beg him not to leave. You run to him before he can make it out the front door and hug him tight, hoping you’re strong enough to stop him from leaving — but you aren’t and you must let Daddy do his job.

Fast forward a couple years, you’re now the 13 year old girl running after her dad’s patrol car in the pouring rain at 6 a.m. Why? Because you didn’t hear him tell you “I love you” through the bathroom door as you were getting ready for school. So you desperately chase him down the drive way, tears streaming down your face, just to say “I love you” in case it’s the last time. The fear you felt that day stays with you for the rest of your life and you never and I mean never miss the opportunity to let your Dad know how much you adore him.

Let’s move to present day. You are now the 26-year-old woman calling her Dad bawling, begging him to quit his job. Why? Because five police officers have been shot and killed three hours away out of an act of hate. So you beg and plead with him to quit his job. Beg him to quit doing what he loves: to stop protecting disrespectful, ungrateful, cop bashing, ignorant strangers.

But then you stop pleading, you put on a brave face like you did when you were a little girl and you do your job as a cop’s daughter. You copy your father’s example of selflessness and give him up to the world and understand he has a job to do.

I wish the world could see police officers the way I do and not just how much of the media portrays them. Police brutality is a very serious matter and I hold those officers accountable, but there are way more good officers than bad. We have to understand they are here to protect us. Trust me, a police officer didn’t pick this career path for the crap pay, long hours, countless missed birthdays and volleyball games, or the constant lack of respect. No. They chose this career path because they value human life and our safety.

Please remember this: All lives matter. My dad and other officers truly and passionately believe in those words, so much they are willing to lose their lives for your safety.

We have to stop the hate and band together and bring light back into these dark times. I’m asking for prayers from each and every one of you. I’m asking that in this time of hate you always choose love and kindness. I ask that you choose compassion and forgiveness for those that are in the dark. I ask that you seek God and that you choose to be the change this world desperately needs.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -Martin Luther King Jr

Whoolery lives in Austin. Her father, Bryan Whoolery, is a SWAT sergeant with the Travis County Sheriff’s Office.

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