Today I was in attendance at the retirement party of a true gentleman and a tribute to his profession. The venue (his church's gymnasium) was crowded as many of his oldest and closest friends and fellow police officers stood and gave tribute to Nags Head Police Chief Wayne Byrum.
As the chaplain for the Nags Head Fire Department most incidents requesting my response will include police response as well. And on many occasions, more often than not it seemed, Chief Byrum was there, not because he had to be, but because it was important to him to do whatever he could to lend a hand, even if it was just his presence. On more than one accident scene, while junior officers were conducting the investigation I've seen Chief Byrum quietly directing traffic, allowing his troops to do their jobs.
Of course, I often found ways to raise the chief's blood pressure. He is not fond of donut jokes (I discovered), and when I posted a Krispy Kreme logo over the coffee pot in the mobile incident command center he didn't find the humor. He told me that one day he was going to "take me for a ride...". Something about the Oregon Inlet Bridge. He was a cop through and through!
Earlier this year Wayne and I worked together on the most difficult of duties for a chief or a chaplain. As we walked up the driveway at 0430 to inform a wife and children that their husband and father died in the line of duty I asked him, "Wayne, have you ever had to do this before?" He was a 30 year veteran. Surely, I thought, he's been through this before. His presence was giving me strength. But he replied, "No. Never." I could feel from the way he said it that this was the hardest moment of his long career.
I also knew that Wayne is a committed believer in Jesus Christ. So I said, "Let's stop and pray." And right there in the driveway we bowed our heads and asked God to help us, but more importantly to wrap His arms around the four people we were about to wake up and give the most devastaing news of their lives.
Then I asked him, "Wayne, do you want to talk, or do you want me to do it?" And here's where I truly saw his leadership as the chief. He quietly said, "I'll start, but you might have to finish." And there on the porch he both started and finished. I'll be honest. I'm was grateful he did.
Today at 1700 he began his well-deserved retirement. He served and protected us well. May he enjoy farming and have the best times with family. And the deer and trout of southwest Virginia need to be put on notice.
Today as I approached to shake his hand he reminded me, "I never did take you on that ride."
(*10-42 is "ten code" for "ending tour of duty")