While sitting with his children and grandchildren at a family event, a grandfather was asked the following question: “Using just two words, Grandpa, what advice can you give on living life to the fullest?” After a moment’s thought, he answered simply: “Don’t blink.”
The reasoning behind that response was not complicated, of course, for we know that life – from the standpoint of a youngster – seems to move at a snail’s pace. From the perspective of the “senior citizen,” though, life passes by in an instant.
For me, those “sands through the hourglass” thoughts have taken on special meaning of late, as the members of my graduating class from the New York State Police Academy met recently for a 50th Anniversary reunion. And while an event such as this is, naturally, laden with nostalgic memories, my overwhelming feeling has been more along the lines of … fifty years? Fifty years?? How, on earth, did that happen so quickly?
As one might imagine, the sixteen-week basic Academy course my colleagues and I underwent some half century ago could be characterized as a “formative” event in our lives. With a curriculum consisting of academics, running, pushups, physical training, pursuit driving and firearms … among other things … the days were full and (intentionally) stressful. And did I mention the running and pushups?
Naturally, the hoped-for outcome of a rigorous program of this sort is that those who graduate will be prepared to perform their duties in superior fashion, and I would like to think our class did exactly that. Over the course of our careers, we worked in various areas and assignments around the state of New York, and though some classmates may have crossed paths over the years, our reunion marks the first time we will have gathered and celebrated together.
Our group numbered 100 on the day we entered the Academy, and we graduated 89. Of that number, 15 (that we know of) have passed away with one, tragically, having been lost in the line of duty. When we gathered we, of course, remembered those colleagues who are no longer with us. In addition, we presented a commemorative plaque to the Academy; that gift, incidentally, marks an important distinction … ours was the first class to have begun and finished our training at the “new” Academy which, like us, is now fifty years older.
The United States Marines’ mantra of “Every marine is a rifleman” is a historic and symbolic acknowledgement that every member of that very special branch of the military has been trained in the rigors of front line combat, and steeped in the traditions of the Corps. In like fashion, every member of the New York State Police, regardless of rank or position, shares a similar bond forged through the training and tradition of that proud organization.
I like to imagine that at some point in the future, a young member of a recruit class walking through the halls at the Academy will take a moment to stop and look at the plaque donated by our class. When she does, she will notice a Latin phrase engraved upon it: Eques In Sempiternum. In tracking down the English translation of those words, she will find that they capture the very essence of what it means to be a member of the New York State Police:
Forever a Trooper