In the Summer of 2008 I began the application process to become a cop for the Dallas Police. Of all the hurdles I had to jump, the toughest was perhaps the question “Why do you wish to become a police officer?” I struggled with summoning an answer, but ended up providing only vagueness and minute fragments of clarity.
Shortly after I began to work for Mountain View College in 1992, one of my students invited me to volunteer tutor her elementary school students in Arlington, Texas. Upon meeting her students, I discovered the pure joy and happiness that children radiated every day. I immediately wanted to embrace and protect them, and thus began my volunteer work with kids. In 1993 I moved on to the East Dallas Police Storefront and the Dallas Public Schools. I met many more kids. I began caring deeply for many of them. 8 year old Sokhem Hay was one of them. She was an energetic, bubbly, feisty, and beautiful third grader who was teaching her classmates Khmer. With our tutoring sessions, I became comfortable joking and socializing with her as a true friend. At times when I would irritate her, she would punish me by grabbing my nose, painfully pulling and twisting it. Only after struggling, getting watery eyes, and saying “I’m sorry!” many times would she let go of her tight grip.
On July 4, 1996, I woke up to the radio announcement that two sisters at Joe Pool Lake had an accident as their family celebrated Independence Day. Both girls were pulled from the water unconscious. CPR was performed immediately on both. One was saved, but the other could not be resuscitated and died. Her name was Sokhem Hay. In disbelief I called my friends, and they confirmed that it was the Sokhem Hay I befriended in 1994.
Later that year I returned to my university to finish my degree. After graduating in 1999, I began to devote a greater amount of time and resources to the children and teens I worked with each weekend, and some I met at work. At the same time, I could not ignore the sudden interest in joining the FBI that I developed fiercely in late 1996. However, I realized that this type of a job would have been too restrictive on my life, and so I decided on something closer to home, the Dallas Police. I was not accepted, but at least they did invite me to reapply in one year.
I spent the rest of 2008 thinking about what exactly pushed me in the direction of law enforcement in the late 1990s. It was only in December 2008 as I prepared the Christmas gifts for my group of kids and teens that the answer came to me: It was the friendship, love, and death of Sokhem that led to my rapid interest in law enforcement. Sokhem was the first friend I lost in my life, and she was just a child. I cried for her deeply at the funeral. I needed to be in the profession that was at the front lines of protecting our children.
Even though I have now decided not to pursue law enforcement anymore, I can confidently say the following: In a world filled with pedophilia and powerful criminal organizations that inflict massive injuries and death on children, I’ll put my life on the line to protect my group of children and teens, and end the life of an aggressor if needed. The love and friendship with my group of kids have made them a very direct part of my life for the last 16 years, and like any true father, I promise to always be there to protect them and invest in their futures. With this being my mission, that which moves my life, I promise to the kids, parents, and God to always honor my words in this essay. This is something that began to develop inside of me with the love and friendship I had with Sokhem Hay, and became a permanent part of me when she went to Heaven.
This I Believe.