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To Serve and to Protect

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I’ve been in the HVAC industry for 17 years. I’ve worked my way up from an install helper, service technician, field supervisor, operations manager, general manager, and trainer. Currently, I am the Manager of HVACR Education with Air Conditioning Contractors of America. However, what most people do not know about me is I also serve as a police officer in the state of Georgia. While many people, including myself, sought inspiration in law enforcement from a family member, it was, in fact, the 9/11 terrorist attacks that had the most significant influence on me to pursue a career in law enforcement.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001, was like any ordinary day for me. I was a high school student sitting in Coach Water’s world history class. Suddenly, our studies were immediately interrupted with an announcement over the school’s PA system instructing every teacher in the school to turn on the television in their classrooms. At that moment, we were faced with camera footage of New York City and the burning of the north tower of the World Trade Center. A little after 9:00 a.m., we watched Flight 175 crash into the south tower. For the rest of the school day, and when I got home, I, just like everyone else, watched the carnage and terror unfold on our country’s soil. As the months went on after the 9/11 attacks, it was deemed the deadliest ever for firefighters, as well as law enforcement officers.

For my entire life, I wanted to serve in the military or public safety. My grandfather had made a career through the military, and my uncle was a firefighter. A strong family influence can be what guides future generations, but it was the 9/11 attacks that motivated me to pursue my law enforcement career. Even though it has been 19 years since the attacks, every time I put on my uniform, it is a solemn reminder of why brave men and women wear the badge. We swear an oath to uphold the Constitution and protect the citizens of our country.

One of my cousins is in the United States Marine Corps. He and I had talked when he was being deployed overseas, and we always told each other, “I got your six.” Meaning, while he was overseas fighting for our country, he had my back preventing the enemy from harming me, my family, and my friends, and I had his back protecting his family, his friends, and his home while he was away. Whether someone is in the armed services fighting for our country internationally or a first responder fighting for our country domestically, our goal is the same. We stop the enemy and protect our country and each other.

Regardless of where you stand politically, brave men and women of law enforcement get up every day and leave their families and run to danger when most are running away. Some of those brave men and women never make it back home and pay the ultimate sacrifice, laying down their lives for their communities and our country. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, there has been 188 line of duty deaths at the time of this article. On 9/11, civilians, first responders, and military lives were lost. Remember how united our country was in the months and years following the 9/11 attacks? The warriors (the knights of old) never forget. The most successful terrorist attack is the one we are not prepared for when it happens.

So, what does 9/11 mean to me? It means I will do whatever is necessary to protect the innocent – the warriors will stop the terrorists. The terrorist that attacked our country did not meet our strength to strength. They surprised us and hit us at our most vulnerable. Not on my watch. 9/11 means to me, never forget. It means the oath I’ve sworn.

As a law enforcement officer, my fundamental duty is to serve the community; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the constitutional rights of all to liberty, equality, and justice.

Matt Akins
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