Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 19, 2012

Tammie Hetzer-Womack: Troopers witness impact of Cram the Cruiser program: 11/19/12

Tammie Hetzer-Womack
The Independent

ASHLAND — Ask a rookie trooper the toughest part of the new job. He’ll probably say it’s the kids. Beholding childhood hardship; leaving a call to service knowing he can’t personally feed each baby’s growling tummy. Sadly it’s on all sides of the Ashland Post 14 area of Boyd, Greenup, Carter and Lawrence counties, with state police sometimes countering abject poverty inside homes they happen onto.

They hope to change the picture this Christmas.

Last week the Kentucky State Police launched its third annual “Cram the Cruiser” food drive. Across the commonwealth through Dec. 14, state police ask citizens to donate nonperishable food items to be distributed to families within each post district. Food is doled out to local shelters, churches and organizations serving the indigent during the holiday season.

Suggested items include canned fruit and vegetables; canned meat; macaroni and cheese; cereal; peanut butter; jelly; canned soups; chili or spaghetti sauce; brownie and cake mixes; coffee; bottled water; powdered milk; and juices.

Last year KSP collected 50,931 pounds of food, with Post 14 tallying 775 lbs of groceries through the campaign.

“This event provides many families with support during the holiday season, allowing our agency opportunity to give back to the communities we’re here to serve,” said Trooper First Class Michael Murriell, public affairs officer for KSP Post 14. “Being a Trooper is truly all about helping others and this program gives us another avenue to provide assistance.”

Raised in a Cincinnati law enforcement home, Trooper Eric Homan knew his detective dad would — more often than not — be on-call at the holidays. He tried his hardest to make it home in time to share Thanksgiving dinner with his wife and three kids.

Now Homan’s a member of proud trooper ranks he grasps the worth of brief holiday moments before his father headed back to his many cases at the station. He knows why his dad was there. Family meals shaped him, cultivated growth and nurtured his huge heart.

Yet, so many youngsters go without these soul suppers nowadays. Homan sees it personally, he says.

“We do this job to make sure people are protected, safe and always feel cared for,” he said. “But this badge is more than just that basic sense of duty and obligation. As troopers, we’re feeding spirits of those who face bad times. We’re indebted to them. We’re ensuring a child has what she needs to grow safe and strong. We do what we have to do when the moment arrives. We pray folks feast on our good advice.”

Trooper Tim Duvall considers the Cram the Cruiser program a blessed avenue to ameliorate the Greenup community he watches — while showing these heroes wearing woolen gray and Christmas-shined brass have a soft, compassionate side, too.

“On so many occasions we deal with calls involving children and they have to see us in a nonfavorable way — due to what delivers us there — drugs or alcohol, physical abuse or a social services visit,” Duvall said. “It breaks your heart to see what they go through. Around this time of year you especially notice — no food in the home, no Christmas presents under the tree.”

Duvall also considers the elderly living on fixed incomes, sometimes choosing medication over food. He said moms often break down crying while speaking to state troopers. They can’t offer a hearty Thanksgiving meal or see that Santa makes a visit on Christmas Eve.

Although it’s hard to withstand, Trooper David Boarman never closes eyes to the adversity and want seen in Carter County. We shouldn’t either, he said.

“I think we’re blessed to live in a time and place where many of us really have more than we need,” he said. “And, if that’s true for you — as it is for me — then I think the responsible thing to do is to help those who aren’t as fortunate.

“I once read, ‘if there be any truer measure of a man than by what he does, it must be by what he gives,’” Boarman said. “That seems right to me. So I’d encourage everyone who’s able to, please donate to the cause this season. You may never know the good you’ve done.”

Provisions may be dropped off at Kentucky State Police Post 14 located at 5975 U.S. 60 in Ashland, or simply given to a trooper patrolling your neighborhood. For more information about the Cram the Cruiser program, call (606) 928-6421.

TAMMIE WOMACK can be reached at tammiewomack@roadrunner.com.