BENEFITING: Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.)
ORGANIZER: THE IRONMAN FOUNDATION
“WHAT WE DO DEFINES WHO WE ARE, WHAT’S YOUR LIFE’S DEFINITION?”
Did you know…More than 19,000 police officers have been killed in the line of duty since the first known police officer death in 1791?
Did you know…in 2012, 120 police officers were killed in the line of duty and 106 police officers have been killed in 2013?
That means every 57 hours a police officer is killed in the line of duty somewhere in the United States.
Israel Deutsch is a 28-year-old police officer. Israel currently works for a local police department in the Green Bay, Wisconsin area and resides with his wife Ashley in Howard, Wisconsin.
This is Our Journey, Our Cause
My first experience with IRONMAN was when I was 15 years old, watching the world-famous IRONMAN Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Championship on television. Initially, I was amazed by the “super” bikers that passed everyone on the course as if the other athletes stood still. Some athlete’s completed the IRONMAN while they had life threatening cancer or physical disability. At the end of the show however, I realized the dedication and commitment these athletes exhibited and made a pledge to myself that I too would someday become an IRONMAN.
Not knowing what career direction I wanted to pursue out of high school, I thought back to my elementary school days and my dreams of enlisting in the military or becoming a police officer. I heard about the camaraderie or special connection a police officer has with other officers; “a brotherhood” so-to-speak. I was able to see how this “brotherhood” and a community came together after the tragic story of a local police officer from my childhood. Michael R. Baribeau, a police officer in my hometown of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, was shot and killed on, December 19, 1995 while investigating a domestic disturbance. Officer Baribeau left behind a wife, son and daughter. His story has always reminded me of the reason I wanted to become a police officer, which was not just to serve and protect the community but to also help families of fallen officers, my lost “brothers and sisters”.
In 2006, I graduated from the Green Bay Technical College with an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice. My first job started in May 2006 as a park ranger for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. In February 2007, my dream of becoming a police officer became a reality when I obtained a full-time job at the Hobart/Lawrence Police Department located only a few miles west of Green Bay, Wisconsin. When I was hired, I learned of Hobart/Lawrence’s own tragedy. On July 22, 2002, Hobart/Lawrence police officers Robert Galen Etter and Stephanie Rae Markins were killed by a vehicular assault while they both sat at a stop sign doing paperwork. An adult male driving a truck intentionally rammed the side of officer Etter and Markins squad car at a high rate of speed, killing them both on impact. Since I learned of their tragic deaths, I started getting into a daily routine of waking up every morning to look online at www.ODMP.org, the Officer Down Memorial Page (O.D.M.P).
O.D.M.P is a non-profit organization that reports in the line of duty officer deaths online. On a daily basis, I read about a different police officers death, family members they have left behind and how their deaths have impacted people all over the world. I try to remember their pictures posted on the website and read the reflections left behind.
In 2010, I applied and was selected to attend a very challenging Drug Recognition Expert (D.R.E) program through the State of Wisconsin. I felt like part of a specialized team similar to specialized military forces such as the Navy Seals and Army Rangers. During my training, I was privileged to meet fellow police officers from all over Wisconsin and create new friendships, one of those including Tyler Gaidish. Tyler knew how to touch the lives of everyone he met. Tyler always spoke softly no matter what situation he was in and always made the person he spoke with feel important. On April 8, 2012, Tyler died in a non-duty related incident. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing when I got the phone call in the middle of the night. I thought to myself, “I just spoke to Tyler yesterday, we were planning a trip, if I only asked other questions.” Tyler’s gravestone reads: A Life Touched The Hearts Of Others Lives Forever.
After Tyler’s death, I vowed to change my life mentally, emotionally and physically. I knew Tyler was important to many and it showed with the words engraved on his headstone. I thought about Michael, Tyler, Robert, Stephanie and other police officers that have died in the line of duty. I felt that special and emotional connection. I wanted to make a difference for my “brothers and sisters” who gave their lives serving and protecting others.
I started thinking about what I could do, how I could give back and how I could share their journey. Then I saw IRONMAN on television again. This time I had a passion, a dream, a goal and a journey in mind. This time I saw a firefighter walking the marathon portion of the IRONMAN in full firefighter turn-out-gear. The athlete was fire fighter Rob Verhelst from Madison, Wisconsin. I thought to myself “how inspirational, how many people were touched just as I was with Rob’s actions?” I knew I had to do an IRONMAN in my police uniform to show a symbol of sacrifice and determination. I knew I had to do more than just complete an IRONMAN but to also raise money to bring awareness to others about the dangers, risks and rewards of a police officers career. Not only does a police officer have a demanding job but when a police officer goes home their physical, mental, and emotional challenges don’t stop at the threshold. Police officers don’t know if they just left their house or kissed their wife and kids goodbye for the last time. The next call or car a police officer stops could be their last.
In October 2012, I hired a triathlon coach, bought a triathlon bike and started to train for triathlons. My training has been intense, difficult, rewarding and full of challenges. On May 28, 2013 while preparing for a local triathlon event, I broke my right collarbone in a bike accident. This was devastating to me, emotionally, physically and mentally. I felt like I let down all of the police officers that died in the line of duty: Tyler, Robert, Stephanie, Michael and many others. I had surgery only two days after my accident and quickly started physical therapy in the weeks that followed. I was so thankful to my wife, Ashley, for her support and strength in helping me through rehabilitation. In the middle of June, I was back training again and in July 2013, I was back on the road biking. These officers were the reason for my training. I wasn’t going to let my injury set me back.
While I swim, bike, and run my motivation comes by remembering the faces and stories of how police officers died. I remember the reflections left behind by others. I remember the sacrifice Tyler, Robert, Stephanie and Michael gave and how it affected me directly. While training or racing, I visually see the police officers’ faces that died or remember my interactions with Tyler. All these things combined motivate me to push my body harder or to its limits during training or while racing. It’s almost as if my “brothers and sisters” are there with me pushing me from behind. It’s that special connection I was seeking.
On September 7, 2014, I will be completing a full IRONMAN (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run) in Madison, Wisconsin. I will bike and run in my full police uniform; including my 10 pound duty belt and 3 pound police vest. Before September 7, 2014, I hope to raise $25,000 for C.O.P.S (Concerns Of Police Survivors).
Since 1984 C.O.P.S. mission has been to “rebuild shattered lives” of the surviving family members and affected co-workers of law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. C.O.P.S. helps law enforcement survivors by providing emotional support and healing programs needed to cope with a sudden, violent death. C.O.P.S. is a national organization with 54 chapters throughout the United States. C.O.P.S. is a not for profit 501(c)(3) organization. C.O.P.S.’ membership is made up of nearly 30,000 survivors. Unfortunately, that membership continues to grow as statistics reflect that 160-180 law enforcement officers are killed every year in the line of duty.
Your donation to C.O.P.S will provide outward programs for kids/adult children, camps, retreats, scholarships, grief counseling and a 21-hour training for police officers. The training addresses in the line-of-duty deaths, critical incidents, police suicides, law enforcement disabilities and specialized training for the traumatized officer. These programs and services are at no charge to survivors.
My overall goal is to make it to the IRONMAN, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Championship to complete the race in my full police uniform and give back something to other police officers that have given everything they had, the ultimate sacrifice, their lives in the line of duty serving and protecting others.
“WITH PASSION YOU WILL FIND A PATH TO FINISH”
Please visit my website wwww.thinblueline2kona.com, facebook page: thinblueline2kona or twitter: @thinblueline2K to follow my progress or for updated information.