There are days which the words just don’t seem the flow from the pen; and there are others during which the keyboard won’t move fast enough to keep up with my speeding mind. Either way- there is a desire to write; something I am not often without.
Today- sadly- is one of those days. I’d rather not write under these circumstances, but to not would be to deny a true public servant what he is due.
Starting this past summer, I had the opportunity to get to know Sheriff Larry Dever of Cochise County, Arizona, as I began an investigative project of the US-Mexico Border.
I started with a source, and ended up with a mentor.
This morning as I logged on to my social media accounts, ready to post yet another quip about the Obama administration – I was met with the following announcement from the Cochise County Sheriff’s office:
It is with deep sadness and regret that the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office must advise the following:
Sheriff Larry Dever was involved in a one vehicle accident near the town of Williams on Tuesday September 18, 2012 at approximately 7:00 pm. As a result of this accident Sheriff Dever was fatally wounded and did not survive. The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office is in charge of the investigation.
The Dever family is aware that many will want to make contact with the family to express their condolences, however, they request that no calls be made to them at their personal residence. The Cochise County Sheriff’s Office will relay all messages to the family directly. God bless the Dever family.
Dumbfounded- I read it again.
We are surrounded by death on a daily basis- it is nothing new. Yet each time it occurs we are taken by surprise- especially when it happens in so tragic a manner. This man had been in law enforcement for over half his life, and had survived the perils that his job involved; even carrying with him a constant reminder of his encounters: the scars on his face from a shootout in the 1980s. Beyond that, his position in the state of Arizona (both geographically and politically) didn’t exactly make him popular with the smugglers relentlessly trying to cross the border into Cochise Country. Yet, it was a terrible car accident that would take his life.
Sheriff Dever’s life was impressive. “Impressive,” in my opinion, is too stale a word to describe the life and achievements of this public servant- but it’ll have to do. Much like the motto Dever chose to represent his Sheriff’s Office, “It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we must do what is required,”(Winston Churchill) Dever did all that he could to protect his county’s citizens. Even beyond that, Dever did what he could to inform the whole nation of the terrible situation unfolding at his doorstep; a situation he firmly believed that if left unchecked would affect EVERYONE in this nation. This often meant taking a tough stance when it came to laws such as S.B. 1070 which placed Dever and his fellow law enforcement officials on a national stage as the Department of Justice went after the state for trying to enforce immigration laws. This meant becoming an enemy of Janet Napolitano, a fact which he made quite clear to me as we made our way down to the border back in August. I’ll never forget driving up to the fence and hearing Dever say that “within five minutes, Napolitano’s going to know we’re here.”
I spoke with the Sheriff’s Office today, and asked for a comment in light of the tragic event. What they sent to me was so absolutely fitting- a list of the Sheriff’s laudable accomplishments. While I learned of some of them as emails about the border went back and forth between Minnesota and Arizona these past few months, the quiet, humble nature of the Sheriff was not one to boast:
-Organized, developed and directed the Sheriff’s Department’s S.W.A.T. and Search and Rescue Teams.
-Organized and directed a multi-agency federal, state and local Counter Narcotics unit.
-Developed and supported the implementation of the very successful Sheriff’s Assist Team using trained volunteers to support the Sheriff’s Department in the county.
In addition to his duties in Cochise County, Sheriff Dever served with/as, and/or was associated with:
-Member of the Board of Directors of the National Sheriffs’ Association
-Past President of the Arizona Sheriffs’ Association
-Chairman, National Sheriffs’ Association Immigration/Border Security Committee
-Chairman, Southwestern Border Sheriffs’ Coalition
-Western States Sheriffs’ Association
-National Sheriffs’ Association
-International Association of Chiefs of Police
-National Association of Search and Rescue
-Boy Scouts of America
-National Rifle Association
-Past Member Arizona Peace Officer Memorial Board
Dever also testified before Congress on various occasions and participated in other national immigration discussions with the hope that in doing so, the debate concerning the reality of our porous border would continue.
Dever did more in his sixty years on this earth than most Americans could do in three lifetimes, yet if left up to him, few would know about it. He had a certain sense of duty; a certain sense of responsibility that trumped any personal aspirations or recognition to which so many others easily succumb. In other words, Sheriff Dever epitomized the concept of a true “public servant.” His concern was first and foremost with the people of his county, his state, and his nation. If he was called upon to go beyond the confines of his Sheriff’s office, he did it without hesitation. He went quietly about his duty with a firm resolve and a servant’s heart. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer put it well: “I’ll remember him in his cowboy hat – soft-spoken and unfailingly polite, but firm in his beliefs and steady in his service to the law. In the truest sense, Sheriff Dever was a Western lawman and country gentleman.”
While Dever’s professional achievements are obvious, what I will never forget was the simple willingness to take a young, inexperienced writer under his wing with the hope that he’d be passing along to the next generation an understanding of the importance of our national security. I’ll never forget the day my husband and I arrived at the door of his office as planned on that hot Saturday in August, only to learn that his mother was in the last days of her life and likely did not have long. Naturally I wouldn’t have dreamed of dragging him away from his family to show me some dusty stretch of a border in the name of a blog post- but in what I’ve come to learn was quintessential Larry Dever, he just looked at us squarely and said, “Nope- I made you two a promise. We’re going to the border.”
I expected to be driven down to the fence to take a look, and call it a day. I found out, however, that when Larry Dever makes a promise, he keeps it and THEN some. We drove all the way to the top of Coronado to survey the situation from nearly 6,000 feet; we drove all the way back down to the fence and walked along it as he explained each portion. We took hours.
We arrived back at his office, and for a moment he disappeared. He came back carrying two uniform patches from Cochise County, which he gave to my husband and I as a gift. I was so touched- we had come and taken of HIS time, and yet he wanted to give us something to remember our experience.
We left for home- and I wrote my article. As I celebrated its acceptance in the Daily Caller, we soon realized there had been a miscommunication regarding comments he made about the Border Patrol Union. This portion of the article spurred a situation that Dever subsequently had to mitigate with the Border Patrol Union- and I fully expected a tongue lashing from the seasoned sheriff. Yet again I was served a lesson in quintessential Larry Dever. He went over our interview- pinpointed where he had ill-explained his point, and took full responsibility for the resulting portion in the article. He did this even as he was asked to appear on Fox & Friends to talk about the article on a national stage. How easy it would have been for him to throw this little known writer under the bus in the name of saving HIS face- yet he never wavered from his principles of honesty and integrity. No- instead in one of the many emails that went back and forth the evening before the Fox & Friends interview he said, (as I lamented over how I should have sent him a copy before sending it off to be published, which would have allowed him to catch the mistake and head it off before it even happened) “There are mistakes of the mind and mistakes of the heart. God knows how to sort them out. Man is not so good at it. Your heart is good.”
I started with a source- and ended up with a mentor.