April 13, 7:03 PM Eastern
The woman at the front of the hall wore a light blue jacket over a white button-down shirt and gray slacks. She stepped up to the podium and raised her hands to quell the noise from the group of twenty-five or thirty people sitting in front of her.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thanks for coming out,” she said, her smooth voice showing a slight twang as she greeted her audience, “I’m Susan Graham from the Governor’s office, and I’m here to talk to y’all about the new Home Guard.”
“Before I begin, let me tell you a little about myself. I’m originally from Hopkinsville, and I retired as a deputy sheriff down there in Christian County a few months ago. If any of y’all were ever stationed at Fort Campbell and got into trouble in Hoptown, there’s a good chance we’ve already met.” Several of the men and women in the crowd returned her smile, and a few of them ruefully shook their heads over some youthful memory or other.
“I also retired from the National Guard as a first sergeant last fall, and I’ve been a few interesting and exciting places doing that. Any fellow Military Police out there?” One of the women in the back of the room raised her hand, and Graham nodded and smiled at her.
“I’ve been in the governor’s office as an advisor on veterans and law enforcement since he took office last December,” she said, stepping out from behind the podium, “You can imagine how fun that’s been.”
“The Governor asked me to come speak with y’all tonight about a new program. He just came back from a meeting in Arizona, and they’re standing up something they’re calling ‘The Home Guard,’ and he thinks it’s a good idea.”
“The Home Guard won’t be the National Guard. They won’t be given helmets and uniforms and sent off to war. They won’t be the State Police, either. Guardsmen won’t be making arrests and gathering evidence.”
“What they will be are eyes, ears, and hands in our neighborhoods, our schools, and our streets. When seconds count, they’ll be there in the crucial minutes it takes for first responders to arrive,” Graham said, stepping behind the podium again.
“We’re asking for good people to step up, get vetted, and volunteer their time in the Home Guard.”
She paused a moment to let that sink in. “Are there any questions?” she asked.
After a moment, a man in the front row raised his hand. Graham smiled again as she nodded to him and he stood up.
“I’m Jim Rucker. What exactly do you mean, “eyes, ears, and hands?” he asked, then sat down.
“When we put a Guardsman in a school or at a shopping center, they’ll watch for anyone who’s a danger to it. We’ll have radios and phones to report back anything suspicious. If, God forbid, someone tries anything like what happened in December, the Guardsman will be there to try to prevent it or to react immediately.”
“The people who attacked our schools on December 19th aren’t going to be deterred by somebody in a blue jacket, and they’re not going to stop because you put your hand up. If you volunteer and something happens, you’ll be asked to do everything you can to stop it.”
“Will we be armed?” someone in the middle rows called out.
“The Governor doesn’t want to take on training someone and being responsible for their guns,” Graham said, looking across the room, “But if you’re got a concealed carry license, then nobody is going to say anything if you decide to carry a weapon to defend yourself and others.”
“We’ll provide first aid training and briefings on what you can and can’t do as a member of the Guard. You’ll go through a drug screening and background check, of course. The Attorney General is considering whether or not you’ll be deputized so that you’re covered by the State if there’s a problem.”
Jim raised his hand again, and stood when Graham acknowledged him. “So,” he said, “we’re going to be there to try to stop December 19th from happening again, and to help out when it does?”
“Yes. Our grandfathers and great-grandfathers did something similar during the World Wars. They guarded things like rail yards and factories. That stuff’s already covered, over-covered if you ask me. You’ll be providing the manpower to watch over the rest of the places someone might attack.”
“I’m not going to lie and say that there’s no risk, because being there when somebody tries to blow themselves up in a grocery store or shoot up a schoolyard is going to be dangerous. But our choice is to either do something like this, hire a whole bunch of new police, or just hope that December 19th was a lightning bolt that won’t strike twice.”
She paused again and looked out at the crowd. “Ladies and gentlemen, the Governor doesn’t have the cash to hire more police, and we’re not dumb enough to leave our children and families open to another attack,” she said in a firm voice, “We need your help.”
The men and women looked at each other, and a murmur went through the crowd. Several looked at their spouses and shook their heads. Jim pursed his lips and stared up at the picture of a racehorse on the wall for a moment, then stood up again.
“Ma’am,” he said, looking Graham in the eye, “Where do I sign?”
Other episodes can be found here. The rest of the story can be found in Escort Duty, available now at Amazon.