This week, a member of the Rochester Police Department lost one of its own when Officer Daryl Pierson was killed in the line of duty. By all accounts, the 32-year-old was a remarkable officer, recognized more than once for his character and exemplary work; he was also a member of the Army National Guard. He was a devoted husband and father, with a 3-month-old daughter and a 4-year-old son, who had just started kindergarten on the day Pierson was killed.
Included in my book, “What The Dog Said”, is a piece I wrote a few years ago about meeting a soldier in an Ohio airport. While this piece isn’t about a police officer, I think the message is fitting in the wake of Officer Pierson’s death, and I’d like to share it with you here. (Note: I recently learned that while serving in the Army, Daryl Pierson spent time in Korea defending the DMZ, which makes this piece even more fitting.)
At the end of the piece, you can find links to ways you can support Officer Pierson’s family as well as first responders in your area.
One last word: If you like the piece, feel free to share the link to this post, but please don’t copy the story and paste it other places. Thanks for being considerate of the copyright.
East Rochester, NY
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The Unsung Celebrity
by Joanne Brokaw
He looked like just another fresh-faced, Midwestern college student heading back to classes after spring break. Tall and handsome, dressed in jeans, a hooded sweatshirt and baseball cap, he was surrounded by what could only be his family, gathered together to send him back into the big world.
I was returning home to Rochester, NY after spending three days in Dayton, OH for the Erma Bombeck Humor Writer’s Conference, where we’d been encouraged to see the humor in the mundane, the laughter in our surroundings and the comedy in our pain.
Maybe that’s why I noticed the young man. A woman who I assumed was his mother was wrapped tightly around his waist, reluctant to say goodbye, a gesture I was all too familiar with whenever I used to send my daughter back to college, an entire hour from home.
I was with two other women from the conference, chatting and laughing, and the young man ended up behind us in the security line. I leaned across our group and tapped him on the arm. “Where are you going that your family is going to miss you so much?” I asked with a smile.
“The DMZ in South Korea,” he responded politely.
It took a minute for that to sink in. The DMZ is the Demilitarized Zone. He wasn’t a student. He was a soldier.
Suddenly this wasn’t so funny. I looked beyond him, and noticed that his family was still gathered beyond the security ropes, his mother teary-eyed and wringing her hands, not daring to take her eyes off her son for even a moment lest she lose him forever in the crowd.
I leaned back to the young man. “What’s your name?”
“Kyle,” he replied.
“I’m going to pray for you, Kyle,” I promised, and turned around, not sure what else to say.
We were directed through different security lines, and Kyle was through the checkpoint before me. As I met up with my friends and we headed to the coffee shop before going our separate ways, I saw Kyle off to one side putting his belongings back into his carry-on. I wanted to stop and talk to him, but I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to run back and tell his family that he would be OK, but I didn’t know if that was true.
So I said nothing, and headed for the coffee shop, where I found a group of reality TV celebrities who had been in town for a charity event. Chatter and laughter poured out into the terminal, and fans were getting autographs and taking pictures. I had my picture taken just for kicks.
As I put my camera back into my bag, I looked down the terminal and noticed Kyle walking by himself to his gate. In an instant, the contrast between the pseudo-celebs and Kyle became all too clear.
I was standing with a group of people who were admired simply because they’d been on television, enduring a month on some tropical island, eating coconuts and rice, and battling each other for a cash prize and the chance of product endorsements. They were surrounded by fans who wanted to shower them with attention.
And here was Kyle, headed out to endure a real bout with survival. Real enemies, real sacrifice, real danger. And no one noticed him.
I know almost nothing about Kyle. Surely, he is someone’s son. Quite possibly, he is someone’s brother. Very likely, he is some young woman’s Prince Charming.
But I know now what I want to say to you, Kyle.
You are the foundation upon which this country is built, young men and women willing to leave behind safety, security and family so that I may remain at home and enjoy the fruits of freedom, even if that includes watching mindless television and writing columns just for laughs.
You are more than any television survivor, more middle-American than any Average Joe. You, Kyle, are my hero.
I missed my chance. You are the real celebrity, and I should have had my picture taken with you.
For permission to reprint, email the author at joannebrokaw [AT] gmail.com.
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Calling hours for Officer Pierson will be Monday (9/8/14) from 2 – 4 p.m. and from 7 – 9 p.m. at Bartolomeo and Perotto Funeral Home on Vintage Lane in Greece. Two more viewings will be held from 2 – 4 and 7 – 9 p.m. Tuesday (9/9/14). Funeral services will be held 11 a.m. Wednesday (9/10/14) at Blue Cross Arena on Exchange Boulevard in Rochester.
In honor of Officer Pierson and in support of law enforcement in your area, consider putting a blue light bulb in your porch light and leaving it on. You can learn more about Lights On For Officer Daryl Pierson on this Facebook page.
To make a donation to the Pierson family, visit this YouCaring.com page, hosted by members of the East Rochester community (where Pierson grew up and lived), or this GiveForward.com memorial page, hosted by the Badge of Honor Association.
The Rochester Police Locust Club also notes:
Cards and letters of encouragement and support can be sent to the family:
The Family of Officer Daryl Pierson
c/o The Rochester Police Locust Club, Inc.
1425 Lexington Avenue
Rochester, New York 14606
• Persons wishing to make an online donation may contribute to the Officer Daryl Pierson Memorial Fund at https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/zrn5/the-officer-daryl-pierson-memorial-fund.
• Donations to Daryl Pierson Memorial Fund may be made by visiting any Citizens Bank branch.
• Donations on behalf of Officer Pierson’s Family may be made to the Rochester Police Foundation, Inc., 206 Park Avenue, Rochester, New York 14607, http://www.rochesterpolicefoundation.org/index.html.
Arrangements have been made through the Locust Club to ensure that donations to these funds mentioned above will be expeditiously received by Officer Pierson’s family.