Honoring our fallen BP agents in Tucson Sector…

BP Coin

BP Coin

Hello…I am Samantha Gallagher, widow of Border Patrol agent, Michael Gallagher.  I want to first thank the Border Patrol for asking me to speak today and to all of you that came here to honor our fallen heroes and what they died for.  This is a gesture of honoring our brave men and women who gave their lives protecting our borders…our country.  It is also about remembering those of us that stood behind the men and women wearing the badge every day…we are the families of the fallen agents.

September 2, 2010, was an ordinary day. I was working from home and remember calling Mike around 9:30 am. I was really frustrated that he didn’t answer his phone when I called.   I even thought about the lecture I was going to give him when he got home. What I didn’t know was that he had just been struck by a drunk driver in his service vehicle.  He had only been in his vehicle about four minutes after leaving the Border Patrol station near the U.S. border with Mexico.

It was around 11 am when I got the knock on my door.  I remember running to the door wondering who it could be.  When I opened it, the US Border Patrol was standing on my front door step.  It takes the breath out of me just thinking about it.   I wanted to shut the door hoping they would disappear.  Instead I stood there; not knowing that what would happen next would change my life.

I looked at this man in his green uniform and noticed he was a higher ranking agent.  He had sweat on his forehead and his dark eyes were difficult to read.  He began to speak and I focused in on his lips.  The words came out slowly. It reminds me of watching the movie Sandlot with my sons. There is a scene when the camera zooms in on a police officer’s mouth as he says,

“- F O R E V E R-“ and everything goes into slow motion.  Except the words coming out of this man’s mouth now were, your husband has been in an accident.   After hearing those words I looked up to find Mike’s friends, agents as well, standing behind this man.  I looked into their eyes and saw with disbelief the news that I didn’t want to hear.  Still I held onto hope that they were only going to say he was in the hospital.

The agent then asked to come in.  I backed away from the door and motioned to them.  I could not speak at this moment.  It was as if someone was strangling me, squeezing my throat harder with every breath.  My heart was racing as they entered.  Around the corner came a man I did not see originally. He had a black shirt on with a notebook in his hand.  I remember noticing his young face seemed very nervous.  I stood in the foyer as they all entered my house.  The man in the black shirt looked around at the empty room and said he thought it would be better if we went in and sat down.

They followed me as I walked into the family room.  I took a seat on the couch and the higher ranking agent sat next to me facing me.  I watched the other man clearing toys from the floor to sit in front of me on the other side of the coffee table.  I remember thinking to myself that I wished I would have cleaned up the boys mess from the night before. Our friends had taken places around me on the couch. When I looked up the higher ranking man sat up straight and looked into my eyes. The words he began to say came out like knives piercing my heart.

“I am sorry ma’am, but your husband died.”

Today I stand here feeling as though my life as wife of Border Patrol Agent, Michael Gallagher, was a dream. But what I want is to make it a reality for my sons.  As a mother I have suffered from the tragedy of the loss of my late husband, but more for my children that lost their father.

My children have passed by his empty chair, longed for their father’s love, that is no longer physically there. With their little broken hearts and tear filled eyes they have looked up to the sky to see a precious soul fill the sky. They each have their memories that float through their minds. Some of their memories make them laugh, others make them cry.  The times they shared and the laughs they had are what they think about now when they think about their dad.

They do know that they have the memories to carry with them.  But they miss his laugh, nerf wars and the things left to be taught.

After their father’s death their reality was filled with fear and with few smiles.  When they wanted a warm embrace from their dad. Yet they still have the last hug and kiss their dad gave them before he left for work the night he did not come home.  The last “goodbye” is something they have tucked away in their hearts.

Today as my children sit in this audience with all the other children that have lost their father, they can look around to see all of you that have come here to honor their dads and other fallen agents.  It will give them the pride and comfort knowing their dads died heroes.

Today is not just about my family.  It’s a day when we stop and consider the sacrifices these Border Patrol agents have made. On a day like today the world should stop, for a brief moment, to honor all of the fallen heroes. For those that have given their life for the call of service, morality and personal responsibility.  I believe a true memorial is when a new culture is created from the sacrifices people have made. With that we can give them the recognition they deserve.  We’ve learned from our fallen agents that heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences.

I would like to end with the following poem…It is called:

In the Simple Performance of Duty

In the simple performance of duty,
he pinned on a badge,
checked his gear with a practiced eye,
and kissed his loved ones good-bye.

In the simple performance of duty,
he reported for work,
joked with his buddies at roll call,
and made his last trip down the squad room hall.

In the simple performance of duty,
he answered the call
to help the helpless, to find the lost,
no matter the danger or how great the cost.

In the simple performance of duty,
he lay down his life,
for those in peril he tried to save,
our brave friend went to his grave.

In the simple performance of duty,
we honor his deed,
as we carry him to rest in a flag-draped casket,
long after the world has forgotten,
we shall never forget.

Never judge or regret, what he did,
In the simple performance of duty

THANK YOU!

Journey Through Loss- Guest Post by Carol Hampson

carol_croppedCarol is a professional storyteller. Performing for live audiences was a vital precursor to writing her first book. The sudden loss of her son in 2003 inspired the memoir, Freedom to Fall. Carol lives in Denver and Costa Rica.

 

Ten years ago my son, Christopher, died rock climbing in Yosemite National Park. Looking back, I pause to reflect on where I’ve been—the pathway leading up from despair, learning to keep my bond with Chris alive—a journey founded in love.

On that fateful day in May 2003, when word came in the night, I could feel Chris’s loving presence and knew that he was with me. But that sense was fleeting, coming between spells of shattering grief. The overwhelming reality was that Chris was gone.

It wasn’t a given that I could keep the bond between Chris and me alive. I had to cultivate it and to believe in it. Most especially, I had to learn to let him go.

Releasing Chris came in many guises over many years, only as I felt ready, and with frequent backsliding. Mainly I took tiny steps.  But a few noteworthy stories emerge as illustrations, steps I took that first arduous year, setting a precedent for the years that followed.

The idea of letting go had its inception in the time before Chris died, for that had been my orientation towards motherhood.  To learn to release Chris, knowing he was never coming home, was in keeping with my deepest belief about parenting.

I had believed in relinquishing my children a little at a time, encouraging them, as they were ready, along the pathways of their own callings. Chris, like my daughter, was temperamentally a free spirit, making my job easier—

When Chris was in college, he would call me on his climbing trips to surprise me, for I never knew when he would leave or where he might be.  After he moved to Breckenridge Colorado, I’d drive up and take him out to dinner. When we met at his house, he would show me his photo album with his latest climbing pictures. Some of those pictures scared me.

One night as we dined by candlelight, I told Chris that the parent is supposed to go first, not the kid. Chris replied that when it was time for him to go then he was going to go.  It wasn’t about how long he lived but about living his life and loving every moment of it.

I said, “Chris, you can have a quality life while protecting the length of your life.”

“I know I don’t know everything,” he answered. “When I’m fifty, I might think something entirely different.”

During Chris’s final days, he told a climbing buddy that he was grateful that I didn’t try to stop him from climbing, even though he knew it frightened me.

“Children are not ours to keep” I wrote after Chris died. “They come through the night, light our days, and are gone. Some die following their dreams. Chris had his gaze on the stars. Deep down in my heart I knew he was going, and I never tried to stop him.”

Another way of learning to let go came with the effort to return to my own life apart from Chris, not just in the motion of it, but with the intent to live again—

For a while I had been dreaming of feeding the homeless. One day I made a chocolate cake, got in the car, and began searching for some homeless people. Some folks were standing in front of the “Jesus Saves” shelter in downtown Denver.  I parked the car and handed over the cake. “Thanks Honey.”  “Are you coming again tomorrow?”  It was my happiest moment since Chris died.

I began taking homemade treats to the homeless every few days. The problem was that I would just hand the food over. I wanted more interaction, to see faces up close and exchange words. To solve this dilemma, I began cooking meals for a crowd, setting up a card table on the sidewalk next to the shelter, and serving folks one at a time.

The first time, some remarked that I was one of Heaven’s angels. “What made you do this?” another asked in amazement.

“I thought you might be hungry.”

“Aren’t you afraid?” asked another.  When I said that I didn’t see anything to be afraid of, he said, “I know there is nothing to fear, but most people don’t know that.”

It was better than I had hoped for. To be up close, see faces, and communicate.

Another day at the shelter, as I set up my card table with pots of steaming hot chili and cornbread, a circle formed around me, like old friends eating and chatting at an afternoon party. Many said, God bless you” and “You be careful.”

It was a simple thing—to step out and feed those with whom I shared a raw vulnerability, where every word exchanged was nourishment for my soul. By putting one foot in front of the other, I was stumbling onto the discovery that with Chris gone, it was possible to go out there and live, with nothing to lose and everything to gain.

On the first anniversary of Chris death, I journeyed to Yosemite, the place that had claimed his life.  I stayed in the climbers’ camp, where Chris had stayed, and met with the climbing ranger who was first on the scene after his fatal fall. On the anniversary day, I hiked Half Dome, circling the 4000 foot giant by trail, from where I scattered Chris’s ashes. Standing high up in the elements, in the deep ethereal blue, surrounded by the granite wonders Chris had so loved, I made a symbolic gesture of releasing Chris to God.

It was never a given that I could grasp the eternal bond between Chris and me.  I had to learn to let go of him, allowing him to be what he had become. Wondrously, each time I let go, I could feel the essence of our love, which encouraged me to keep going. Over the years that sense took root, becoming a daily reality.

Looking back, I can see that with each gesture of relinquishing Chris, a foothold was gained. As I stand at the ten year mark, Chris is with me—a beam of light shining through the sadness.

Excerpt from Freedom To Fall —

When a child is born, you hold that bundle of preciousness to your heart, and every day thereafter, you let go a little more. When a child dies, you unfurl your hands and blow, for the child, endowed with Spirit, is now truly free.

Through days of mourning the loss of Chris, I seek the guidance to release him. Each act of unleashing is an act of love. To encourage the freedom of our children is the greatest gift we can give. It requires seeing them, not as we wish them to be, but as they really are, and nurturing the heartbeat that is them.

There is order and beauty in the universe. Our children deserve to pursue their freedom—to die even—when God calls.

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http://morningsongbooks.com

@carol_hampson

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