8:58 AM EDT, September 20, 2012
Death is as much a part of life as birth. It's been observed that the only thing you truly have to do is die.
Still, when the end comes, it is a time of sadness and mourning for the deceased's family, friends and colleagues.
When the end comes to people regarded as too young, the sadness and mourning are multiplied.
Then there are tragic spells like the past several weeks where, in unconnected and unrelated cases, four public servants departed this plane of existence. Three police officers — two Harford County sheriff's deputies and an officer from the Aberdeen Police Department — died as a result of health issues or accidents. And the active and healthy president of the Harford County Board of Education died at his home a matter of days after presiding over what no one expected to be his last board meeting.
Ceremonies to honor the memories of all four — School board President Leonard Wheeler, Aberdeen Officer Charles Armetta, and Sgt. Ian Loughran and Cpl. Charles Licato, of the sheriff's office — have been large, well-attended and high profile, but they haven't been over the top.
Often high profile funerals for public servants who die while still active in their callings come as a result of a different kind of death. Police work, in particular, is among the most dangerous of public service professions — and among the most stressful.
The three officers, however, were felled by the same kinds of tragedies that befall many people who are considered too young.
It isn't the cause of their deaths that necessitates the elaborate send-offs they received, but their chosen profession and the reality that they were actively employed on the front lines of protecting the general public. Similarly, while much older than the three officers, Dr. Wheeler had chosen to volunteer his time in retirement from a career in education to the cause of education, and he succumbed while actively involved in that endeavor.
Harford County has lost four valuable public servants in the past several days, and the ceremonies that honor their collective commitment to the betterment of society also serve to remind the rest of us how valuable the calling of public service is.