Legendary journalist, Tom Brokaw, describes the generation who grew up in the United States during the deprivation of the Great Depression, and then went on to fight in World War II, as the Greatest Generation

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Legendary journalist, Tom Brokaw, describes the generation who grew up in the United States during the deprivation of the Great Depression, and then went on to fight in World War II, as the Greatest Generation. While I certainly agree with Mr. Brokaw’s assessment, I would also suggest that the Greatest Generation will be remembered for many years to come as the generation that gave sacrificially to support members of the law enforcement profession.

As many of you may know, the SC Sheriffs’ Association is funded almost exclusively through donations from our Honorary Membership program. This program was established in the early 1980’s and quickly generated a wave of support for South Carolina’s Sheriffs. Thousands of average citizens, many of whom came from the era that would later be described as the Greatest Generation, agreed to financially support the Association in its efforts to better serve the Sheriffs. It quickly became clear that these individuals were not only generous with their resources, but they also valued law and order and appreciated the sacrifice law enforcement officers make on a daily basis. Before long, donations from thousands of Honorary Members enabled the Sheriffs’ Association to provide advanced training to Sheriffs and their deputies and to shape legislation that would allow officers to better protect and serve the public. At one point, the SC Sheriffs’ Association could proudly claim that they had the support of over 23,000 Honorary Members.

Sadly, members of the Greatest Generation leave us in greater numbers with each day that passes. We have witnessed that first-hand at the SC Sheriffs’ Association as more than 1,200 Honorary Members have passed on in the past two years. Combine this severe decline with a generally negative attitude towards law enforcement officers nationwide and some very poor decisions by some South Carolina Sheriffs and you will soon begin to understand why our Honorary Membership program is dwindling. In fact, we have seen roughly a 37% decrease in our Honorary Membership from this time last year. With that in mind, I have one final request of the greatest generation – and anyone else who is willing to help.

With great respect and humility, I would ask that you do all you can to teach the generations following you to follow your example. Please do all you can to teach the next generations to give of their time and their resources. The Greatest Generation has taught their children to give financially, but we have seen charitable giving decline steadily as new generations come along. There is a greater sense of entitlement with younger generations and less of a desire to contribute to the greater good of society. There is a constant cry for less taxes and smaller government. If we truly want smaller government – and I think we all do, then we must be willing to accept that the government will do less. If the government does less, then groups like the SC Sheriffs’ Association must do more. For that reason, Sheriffs throughout the state look to us to provide advanced and specialized training because the funding simply is not there at the state and local levels. Simply put, the services we offer the Sheriffs and their deputies are needed and are not provided anywhere else.

Also, please do all you can to teach the next generation to respect law enforcement officers. I understand that respect is earned, not given. I further understand that some law enforcement officers throughout the country, including some Sheriffs in South Carolina, have not acted in a respectable manner. I would contend, however, that an overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers in this country (and Sheriffs in South Carolina) are worthy of your respect and admiration. I would further argue that an overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers would lay down their lives to protect complete strangers simply because it is the right thing to do. This fact is lost on many of the younger generations. For many of the younger generations, respect for authority has been lost. Lost too is the notion that law enforcement officers pursue their chosen paths out of a deep desire to serve and protect. I cannot think of a single Sheriff or law enforcement officer that entered the law enforcement profession out of a desire to hurt or abuse. If the media and our communities would place the same amount of scrutiny and attention on an officer’s good acts as they do his poor decisions, I think we would all realize the incredible job our officers do every day.

Now, you may be wondering how you can teach future generations to give and to respect law enforcement officers. As members of the Greatest Generation have done so many other times in history, you must be willing to be the example in order to see real change. Let future generations see you supporting officers both financially and in good deeds. Renew your Honorary Membership with us or make a special contribution. Purchase Honorary Memberships for your children, grandchildren, or even your neighbors. Let them read the pages of our newsletters and learn about the wonderful things our Sheriffs and their deputies do on a regular basis. Please help us create the next “Greatest Generation” that will support law enforcement for many years to come. Whatever you do, please do not let the next generations believe the lie that all law enforcement officers are bad and cannot be trusted.

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