A special thanks to Blue Shepard for allowing me to publish his weekly e-newsletter here on Vigilant Wolf. The Blue Shepard is a friend and past guest of Ever Vigilant podcast (episode 43). I personally look forward to his weekly thoughts on Christianity, Manhood, and Brotherhood and I believe you will feel the same.
A blessed Ash Wednesday to you all. Remember, O' Man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return. Repent and Believe the Gospel.
Few American professions still use overt symbolism in uniform. By and large, the delivery man no longer is attired as a delivery man, the chef no longer looks like a chef, and nurses... well, they wear pajamas to work (My wife is a nurse. She receives these emails. Pray for me.). A few industries who still have a (waning) traditional dress include air travel, military, judges, fire and rescue, and law enforcement. In a generation of grown men who proudly dress as little boys, a man in uniform has an unrivaled presence.
In my profession there is great symbolism, connection with the past, and the spirit of communion with the ways of our predecessors. This sometimes leads to unhealthy indoctrination in training and mindset, but the benefits far outweigh the risks. It is now in vogue to seek connection with some forgotten past. Law enforcement professionals do not have this problem; we are very connected with our roots.
My department is one of few which still require the whistle chain. We have other ornaments on our uniforms, from collar pins to required "two silver writing pens" (yes... it's written in policy). Everyone asks about the whistle chain.
Long, long ago, in a galaxy not so far away, police officers commonly carried whistles. In a time before personal radios or cellular phones existed (surprisingly the though of functioning in the world without these conveniences makes men my age break out into cold sweats which makes me want to punch them out cold and drag them off into the woods for a while) a gun was about the loudest signal you could conveniently carry on your person. For the sake of saving ammunition and avoiding unnecessary risks, a whistle was a close second, and a much safer alternative than causing small lead balls to rain from the sky miles from where you fired them. The whistle was the radio before the radio. Someone runs from you? Blow your whistle. Need backup but they're a block away? Blow your whistle. Trying to get someone's attention but yelling won't do? Blow your whistle. The whistle was almost as valuable to the urban police officer as the walkie-talkie is today. That is why it was necessary to secure it. The common place to keep it was the shirt pocket (another item disappearing from uniforms). But what if you are using the whistle and get punched in the face or have to communicate with your hands full? Thus the lanyard. There have been varying types. Eventually, as most police departments began to develop their own uniform systems rather than just piggy-back off the military's fashion (which American police uniforms and most men's fashion trends have always been in some form or another) the whistle chain was recognized as a gorgeous adornment to the already decorated shirts. It just went well with the look, and served it's purpose dutifully. The whistle continued to be indispensable up through the era of car radios and payphones, up until the widespread advent of personal radios. Many officers still kept their whistles as a backup system to the unreliability of their older radio systems. Radios have came a long way. When I was a firefighter (c. 2016) the radios we had were shock, fire, water, and electrical hazard resistant. We wore them on the outside of our protective asbestos laced, cotton duck gear which was meant to withstand interior firefighting tasks. The humble whistle has been relegated to the realm of relics no longer relevant.
The lanyard, on the other hand, yet hangs around. Some officers keep a whistle on it. I have another item on mine. I, like most modern policemen, do not carry a whistle or dedicated auditory signaling device as part of my regular tool kit. But the chain remains, and hails our attentions back to the way things used to be. It reminds us that somewhere, not so long ago, an anxious young man with a revolver, twelve rounds of .38 special, a wooden stick, a tin incandescent flashlight, a pair of handcuffs and a faithful whistle stood quivering outside some abandoned barn, deep in the woods, knowing that no one was coming to help him, and he must face the demon on the other side of the door. The whistle chain stirs us to recollection of the unbridled grit of men who tamed entire towns with little more than a gun, a badge, and a few friends who were just a blow of the whistle away. It spirits us into nostalgic contemplation of our forefathers' courage and dedication to the betterment of their communities, enchanted by duty, as they walked knowingly sweetly into death's cold and thorny embrace, sometimes all alone. Most of their stories will never be told. Most of their widows you've never heard of. Most of their children will be the only ones to venerate their legacies. But the little chain hangs in place to testify in their steads.
From the shield and cross of the martyr of St. George of Rome, to the shield and cloak of my 12th great grandfather (Sir Robert Earl de Medewe, knight in the services of Majesties King Richard the Lionheart and King John I), to the fierce character and badge of men like Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves and FBI Special Agent "Jelly" Bryce, to the badge and Bible I carry today; as a Christian, minister, enforcer and man, I have no lack of heritage. The badge reminds me. The uniform reminds me. The ceremonies and rituals by which I was inaugurated to these noble offices remind me.
The Blue Shepard
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