This past Wednesday was National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. The day was founded in 2015 to recognize and show appreciation for the men and women who have dedicated their lives to serve and protect. National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day is only celebrated one day a year, but law enforcement officers risk their lives every day, on and off the clock. Every day, the men, women, and children who are family of law enforcement show more strength and support than most of us can imagine. Every day, law enforcement deserve our appreciation and respect.

Worldwide, Special Olympics is deeply connected to law enforcement officers through the international organization Law Enforcement Torch Run, who in 2018 raised a total of $58,000,000 on behalf of our athletes! What Special Olympics would look like without the partnership of law enforcement officers is beyond me, but my thoughts today aren’t about Torch Run. Today, my thoughts are about the individuals whose service I tend to take for granted.

Michelle Ugalde and Doyle Syling have been involved with Special Olympics New Mexico for years. Because I have known these two officers for so long, I called them to thank them for their service and dig a little deeper into just why they chose law enforcement as a career.

Michelle Ugalde has been in law enforcement for twenty years. She is currently a sergeant with the Dona Ana Sheriff’s Department. When I asked her why she chose to be a cop she shared this: “I chose law enforcement to make a difference – and I mean that. I wanted to make sure that any time I was involved in making an arrest, the person who was being arrested was treated with respect and told they made a mistake; they made a bad choice.” I am thankful for Michelle’s reasoning and grateful that she has served her community well.

Doyle Syling is now retired after 23 years of service, and was a sergeant with the Alamogordo Police Department. Doyle told me that his father was in law enforcement and that he and his brother both chose to walk in those same footsteps. He said that like his father, he believed he could make a difference in his community by serving in law enforcement, and that he also knew the choice came with a price. He shared: “As a cop, you are exposed to tragic things that change you. After a while you become bulletproof to those things and suppress your emotions. That has an impact on your family. I would have never been able to stay in law enforcement without my faith in God.”

Today, I am thankful for those who serve and protect with integrity, honor, and a good heart. To all who serve: I appreciate the risks you take and all that you do on our behalf.




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