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Honoring Those with the Courage to Serve





I recently read Courage is Calling, a book that inspired me to display courage in ways that we don’t normally think about it, to not live a life of fear, and to serve as an example of courage to others around me. 

  

Last week, I had the humbling opportunity to speak at the annual Law Enforcement Memorial service in Pierre. We honored 68 brave South Dakotans in local, state, and federal law enforcement who showed courage by giving up their lives in service to our people. During that ceremony, I read a passage from Courage is Calling to the audience, including the law enforcement officers in attendance: 

  

(Courage) is renewable. It’s there in each of us everywhere. It’s something we are capable of at a moment’s notice in matters big and small, physical and moral. There are unlimited, even daily opportunities for it at work, home, and everywhere. And, yet, it remains so rare.”  

  

Our law enforcement officers live up to that example of courage every day. They keep our communities and prisons safe while representing the kind, welcoming spirit that South Dakotans are known for. And that standard of excellence has inspired so many more to answer the call to serve. 

  

As that ceremony reminded us, sometimes those officers make the ultimate sacrifice in their service to us. I’m reminded of a shooting in Rapid City that took the life of two officers — Ryan McCandless and Nick Armstrong. Another officer involved in the shooting, Tim Doyle, walked out of the hospital a week later with the bullet still lodged in his chest. He reported for duty about two weeks later and is currently a lieutenant with Rapid City PD — that is renewable courage. 

  

In 2020, Sturgis PD Sgt. Christopher Schmoker and officer Dylan Goetsch received the Carnegie Medal for running into a burning building to save a family. A Pennington County Deputy did the same thing earlier this year. 

  

Sometimes, we can show courage through kindness. A Sioux Falls officer went viral in January for having the courtesy to deliver a DoorDash order after the driver was arrested because of outstanding warrants. The clip from a Ring security camera won the hearts of Americans for the act of kindness. 

  

We can thank law enforcement officers for their courage by giving back. That includes supporting them financially, which we did this year by giving raises to state employees – including correctional officers, state troopers, and conservation officers. 

  

We also support them with new resources like regional crisis centers to get people in crisis off the streets and into a facility that can deliver targeted care; equipment upgrades so they can better guarantee safety in our communities; and upgrading state radio towers so that they can communicate as necessary.  

  

We can also make law enforcement’s jobs easier by preventing crime before it happens, which is why I sent the National Guard to the Southern Border to help stop the flow of illegal drugs into our communities. We can also address substance abuse through awareness campaigns and other efforts to combat meth and opioid addiction.  

  

Finally, we can show our appreciation by getting law enforcement the backup that they need. I spearheaded a national recruiting campaign to bring more quality officers to our state, and they answered the call because they want to live and work in a state that respects them. We display a different kind of courage by continuing to respect law enforcement at a time when much of the nation is taking a different path. 

  

Courage is rare in some places, but not in South Dakota. For us, it has helped us to thrive while other states recoiled in fear. Courage has the power to inspire others to do more, to serve others. Let’s each find the courage to do our part and keep our communities safe. 

 

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