By Retired Captain Roger Whittler
The Missouri Trooper Monument Fund (MTMF) was created in 2015, when the superintendent at the time approved inter-departmental correspondence. A committee was established to raise funds, and coordinate agreements to build a monument. A non-profit called “Missouri Trooper Fund” was established between the Missouri State Troopers’ Association and the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. Through many hours of meetings - the current project was launched. Keeping in mind that similar projects have taken 15 years to complete, and a previous attempt to build a monument for the Patrol failed, there was one consistent message, “fundraising is hard work.”
At a Community Foundation of the Ozarks Donor Appreciation Banquet, I heard stories of how community projects started slowly and labored for years before being kickstarted into eventual completion. Speakers at the banquet shared stories of how their struggles, negativity, and burnout ultimately led to success. The theme was that effort produces results, but only if sustained over a long period of time.
As a trooper from 1987 to 2018, I understood that a certain level of care and acknowledgement was missing, certain topics were never discussed openly, and many voices went unheard. I observed an "unwritten rule" among some private and public officials: being strong is being quiet and acting as if the tragedies and emotions never happened by forgetting or blocking it out - in essence officers should not have feelings. This unwritten rule is a weakness of the monument project insomuch because those who believe in it will speak out against the monument. My secondary employment role for many years has been private practice as a National Board Certified Counselor and member of the American Counseling Association. As a trooper and a counselor, I am aware of ethical codes to advocate for those who do not have a voice. How can we listen to those voices and validate their grief, acknowledge their sacrifice, allow them to express their pride, respect, and reverence? As part of counselor education, I recall a principle simply called “EAR” – that is first lend an ear to listen, and then respond with an Emotionally Accurate Response. When people are longing for validation, can we lend an ear, and respond in some way that is accurate for what they are going through? This is the standard of care we are capable of. Other states with similar size agencies have already created a lasting monument in response to the sacrifices officers and their families make.
Key moments for me were brief conversations:
Gentleman:“My family and I would like to purchase a paver for my grandfather who was a trooper, where do I send the money and the form?”
MTMF:“You do understand this project may take many years to complete?”
Gentleman:“We don’t care about that – we don’t care how long it takes.”
Gentleman: I would like to donate and use part to purchase a paver in my son’s name with a special message to the Patrol."
MTMF:“Thank you for supporting us.”
Gentleman:“A trooper supported my son.”
Civilian Employee Family Member: “My dad was a Driver Examiner, and he sacrificed a lot for the Patrol, would I be able to purchase a paver in his name?”
Mother of a Fallen Officer: “I’m sorry, but I just cannot believe that anyone would be against this monument.”
MTMF: “We will just keep trying to get our message heard.”
I can think of no other venue where these families would be able to express such strong emotions, and feel supported and acknowledge the sacrifices made. The survivors of fallen officers, officers and civilians who were injured, disabled, or forever impacted emotionally by their service; citizens, and other public servants who long to have validation of the critical interaction between the Patrol and their family’s lives - everyone is included. The parent’s whose child wants to choose a profession of public service want to know, “If we make these sacrifices, will they be acknowledged?”
Recently, Missouri led national legislation for funding, Supporting and Treating Officers in Crisis Act of 2019; it was enacted to address officer suicide, and support officer’s families. One legislator commented “Helping officers process and deal with what they must bear to keep their communities safe is an important duty we owe.” I have attached a link, (Supporting Officers and Families), at the end of this article, it contains very important information. The reason I include this information here is because this initiative is also threatened by the "unwritten rule." As these funds are made available to community mental health centers across the nation, those officers and families that are in crisis must make a choice. Choose to seek assistance in a community where everybody knows you, or choose to protect against what could be interpreted as weakness by trying to forget or blocking out these concerns as if they never happened. Keeping in mind that officers and their families in crisis are keenly aware of whether they are supported or not. The Missouri Trooper Monument is an important step in addressing the double bind, (two opposing messages), we find ourselves. The Missouri Trooper Monument openly honors past, present, and future service, and communicates "we will never forget the sacrifices officers and families made, are making, and will make." It tells officers and their families "WE GET IT" and we support you - it is an Emotionally Accurate Response.
Will you be a part of the future by providing your support, stand with us and help lead the way forward? It's as easy as purchasing an exclusive print for less than $60, or a paver with a message of support. These items are available at MissouriTrooperFund.org. You will become part of our team and receive email updates, and acknowledgement that you stood up for those who go towards the danger. I am proud to say we have nearly reached $40,000 in donations, our goal is to reach $350,000 for this monument to be created by an acclaimed sculptor at BJMUNGENAST.COM- we need everyone's help. Our sincerest gratitude goes out to our supporters, BackStoppers, Officer Down Memorial Page, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department and other fine organizations.
Comments or questions regarding this article can be addressed to MoTrooperMonument@Embarqmail.com.