Heroes speak to help each other
Charles Lowe knows a few things about being a hero, although the police officer from the St. Louis area doesn’t consider himself one. Through going back to his training after being shot in his patrol unit, he was able to survive and ultimately recover from the shooting.
Lowe’s was one of more than 30 stories of heroism were heard Saturday during the 2nd annual Not All Heroes Wear Capes event at the Emergency Operations Proving Grounds, east of Jacksboro. Lowe said it was through the grace of God and going back to his training that he was able to survive.
“Fortunately my vest took the round and I was only a half-mile from the hospital,” Lowe said. “I was always told to stay active in times like these, so I was doing the hokey-pokey I was told. The whole experience seemed like I was in a tunnel. I didn’t know if I was dead or alive. It was just so surreal.”
After recovering from the experience, Lowe started Project Hurt, which works with officers injured in the line of duty. Many officers and first responders are told by their departments that they will be taken care of. More often than not, that is far from the truth, Lowe said.
“You’re not only fighting for your physical health in that situation, you’re fighting for your mental health as well,” Lowe said. “We want to make sure that officers in that situation are never forgotten and help them walk through the struggles of being alone.”
Many departments, Lowe has found by personal experience, will use an officer going to counseling against him or her during their recovery.
“Not all heroes wear capes,” Lowe said. “Some wear badges as well.”
Randy Sutton is a former officer, and the founder of Wounded Blue, who had a stroke in his patrol car. He said the stroke gave him a gift.
“The gift of clarity,” Sutton, who was helping film a movie about the event, said. “I’m still able to serve those I respect the most – law enforcement officers.”
Jacksboro PD Sgt. Houston Gass has also experienced what it’s like to go through, what an estimated 20,000 officers have gone through, recovery after being shot. Gass said he has been praying about being able to help for the last three years. His fellow JPD colleague, Patrol Sgt. Banning Sweatland, was in charge of planning last year’s soft opening event where 32 heroes came and spoke.
Sweatland started the EOPG two years ago, but spent 17 years working for the Haltom City Police Department. He was part of the funeral escort for one of the five Dallas officers who were killed in July 2016, which he said was the “last straw” for him opting to do something.
“I’d been thinking about doing this since 2001,” Sweatland explained. “Is this a plan or not event worth it.”
To get the ball rolling, he said he surrounded himself with smart people and has started to change the vernacular of the way people think.
“It’s going to make some people mad, but the true first responder in any situation are the general public, teachers and those individuals who call in a situation,” Sweatland said. “Police and fire department are second responders so to speak. That’s a big deal with me, but I didn’t create the term.
The present EOPG is 3,600 acres, but only 17 are fenced in for work. Sweatland wants to develop 100 acres on US 380 West in Jacksboro and train all first responders in Priority One calls, which have grown tremendously.
Sweatland also hopes to have a large hospital constructed locally for emergency responders and to create a VA system for first responders so they will have somewhere to go in the case of injury.
Sweatland, a former K-9 officer, who nearly had his arm torn off by a dog in training back in 2003, said he is focused on getting all this done soon.