by Aly Tuttle
This morning, I woke up as my husband was getting ready to head into work. Today is his normal day off, yet he is going in to work some overtime and to lead the range training for the other officers. I saw his range uniform lying there. He got dressed. I gave him a kiss, told him his butt looked good in those pants and off he went. I proceeded to start laundry, and I see his uniform needs to be washed. I broke down. Why? I can’t tell you exactly why it was that moment that sent me into tears. All I know is that moment sparked a million thoughts running rampant through my head.
What if this is the last time I wash this uniform? What if I get “the call”? What if something bad happens?
Then my mind turns to hate. Why don’t all these idiots understand? Why are they killing MY family? If I had it my way, I’d just… and I stopped myself. Hate is powerful, and in a matter of seconds, I had so much rage inside of me against these Officer Murdering Cowards. (Okay, maybe there’s still a little bit). I should not give these monsters that satisfaction.
Back to more questions that run through my head as I’m in tears. Why does he do it? Wait… HOW does he do it? You can ask any officer WHY they do their job, and you will likely get a very politically correct answer of, “to serve my community” which for most is VERY true. However, “WHY” is a very loaded word.
I can’t speak for every officer’s “why”, or even my husbands, but what I can tell you is how I interpret my husband’s “why” from what I’ve seen, so I’m going to throw out a few scenarios of what I think drives my husband to be a Police Officer.
First off, children. There is no doubt that helping children is a driving force behind my husband’s service to our community. Example: I receive a phone call from him.
Him: “Babe, do we have any of the boys old gloves, hats, scarves that don’t fit them anymore and are still in good shape?”
Him: “Could you run them into the PD now?”
Wondering why, but without question, I take them in. He thanks me, gives me a kiss and goes back inside. He returns home that night to explain that he had a woman who was caught stealing gloves and hats from a local store. She was stealing them for her children, because it was cold outside and she did not have the means to afford them. So he gave the bag full of hats, gloves and scarfs, to this woman for her children. A selfless act of kindness and support in what is possibly this woman’s worst day. All for the children.
There is a distinct difference in his facial expressions when he returns home on a day that he has had to handle any case where children are being mistreated. Children that are beaten, children that are sleeping in homes full of cockroaches, and the only bed they have is a rug on the floor. It kills him to see this, knowing that this is a reality for some children.
Another reason: to help others. A couple of months back – some of you Marshalltown people will remember these people – there was a group of three “train hoppers” traveling through Marshalltown. They had two dogs with them, and nowhere to stay. One of their dogs was hit by a car. My husband picked up the dog in his squad car, took it to the vet and contacted a local rescue that paid the bill for the dog’s treatment.
A few days later, these same individuals had to spend some time in jail. My husband arranged for placement for the dogs while the individuals were in jail. Once released, he took them dog treats and dog food before they left town. It turns out these same people ended up causing a lot of trouble in town after my husband’s kindness towards them; however, he did not regret the help he gave them.
Another example that will sit with me for a long time, mainly because it scared me and I told him he should no longer do that. After a long shift at work, my husband returned home, slept and then got up early to go help a fellow officer on a home project. While returning home from said project, my husband drove past the jail. He saw an individual that he had arrested the night before walking on the highway towards town, after being released in the morning. My husband, the arresting officer and the man who took this individual to jail, stopped and offered this guy a ride back to town. The individual got into the car, not realizing it was the same officer that had arrested him, thanked my husband for picking him up, then looked over… silence. Followed by a “holy crap, you’re the officer. Wow! Thank You SO MUCH! That is so amazing, I can’t believe….” and so on.
So, to answer my own question of why, that is “WHY.” To help people and children despite their background, their color of skin, their age, their looks, their lifestyle.
Now, onto the hard part. HOW? I struggle with this because, I can guarantee you, that I absolutely could not be a police officer. There is just no way. I do not have the ability to keep my calm and cool in situations that they deal with.
How do they, day after day, experience people at their worst moments, and return home at night to their families and say, “Oh, work was good.”?
How do they go to a job where they know that there are people out there that want to murder them because they wear a uniform?
How do they miss endless holidays, birthdays, family gatherings, etc. all to put on a uniform that is all too often met with hate?
How do they get spit at, hit, screamed at, called names, and stand their ground without yelling back, without screaming back, without holding a grudge?
How do they face evil daily, and get up early to go in and work extra shifts on their day off?
I don’t have the answer. I simply do not understand the “how”. I can tell you that if you ask my husband his answer will likely be a very downplayed response like, “Oh, it’s just part of the job. Not that big of a deal. Ya get used to it, and don’t take it personally.” Again, I can’t explain how, and I assume most officers do not want us to know how, because their version of “how” is too intense for us to handle.
I do know that being an Officer’s wife has changed me. Any Officer’s spouse that tells you otherwise is lying. It’s not a bad change, but a “new normal.” What is normal for your family on your husband or wife’s day off differs slightly for my family.
Before I knew my husband, I never had a strong tie to law enforcement. I knew a few officers and I respected them, but was still pissed at them when I got a speeding ticket….or 5. When I met my husband, I still had a very misconstrued view of how they do their jobs. After a while, I learned that what I had thought, from all of my years of experience watching Law & Order, was well, all wrong. I’m sure I asked a million questions that my husband thought were annoying, but he answered them. After a while you stop asking. You realize that the last thing they want to do is answer a million questions about work when they are finally home from work and able to relax. So you learn to ask the simple, “How was work?” and get the typical, “Oh it was good” and then move on. No details needed. My husband needs to know that home is the place where he doesn’t have to relive the evil, tragedy, and anger that he see’s while at work.
As an Officer’s spouse, you will also experience a new “normal.” Suddenly, people you barely know or talk to believe that you are now their personal police person. If I had a quarter for every time someone asked me a police related question, my husband wouldn’t need to be a cop anymore. Or the people who automatically think it’s okay for them to tell you what they think about your spouse. My personal favorite, an individual I work with, and was meeting for the first time, asked what my spouse did. I hesitantly responded, “He’s a Police Officer.” She explained her son had been in some trouble. I changed the subject.
I returned to work the next day and first words out of her mouth, “Oh, I asked my son about your husband. My son says your husband is a real dick!” (Now most wives, may walk away, try to downplay it, or give some nice politically correct reason… I’m not so good at that, and at this time I had been working for 20 hours already and had 10 more to go, so…) My response, “Well then, your son must be a real piece of shit! Cause my husband is only a dick if ya really earn it!”
Needless to say, she didn’t have much of a response. This is an example of how your life changes as the spouse of an Officer. People think this is okay, they think they have to tell you. Luckily, all of us spouses are stronger than anyone knows. We get used to this banter and with time, (I’m still working on it) you learn to ignore it.
I don’t want people to think that their job is completely unappreciated, it isn’t. There are most definitely people who do support them. All sorts of people in our community have shown an outpouring of support to our officers in these past few weeks. Simply telling an Officer Thank You, may be the one and only positive experience they have that day. I can tell you that all of our Officers are hurting right now, not just in Marshalltown, but nationwide. Some cover the hurt with strength and attitude, some with laughter and smiles. Others do not cover it up, but meet it with anger and resentment while trying to maintain a professional demeanor and appearance. So remember that, when you see an Officer and they don’t have a smile on their face, or they aren’t dancing in the street with people. Their family, their co-workers, their brothers and sisters are being hunted and murdered, and they don’t know if at any second, they are next.
So be compassionate, listen, and show your support.
It’s time for me to put that uniform into the dryer. This is a load of laundry that I will never forget. I only hope that I get the honor of washing that uniform for many, many years to come.
About the Author: Aly Tuttle lives in Iowa and has been married for almost two years to her husband who serves as a Sergeant on the Marshalltown Police Force. Aly is a full-time student at the University of Northern Iowa, completing her special education teaching degree. She also works full-time for an agency that supports independence for adults with special needs. Aly is a family centered wife, and prefers that every free minute be spent with her husband and his two boys doing some type of outdoor activity such as hiking, dirt-biking, fishing or shooting. She is passionate, outspoken, and supportive of everyone around her.