BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Saturday is Peace Officers Memorial Day, a day where across the country, flags will fly at half staff in memory of law enforcement officers who were killed or disabled in the line of duty.
For Randall Smith, it’s an important day. His father, Randy, was a Birmingham police officer who was shot in the head while responding to a call in 1995. He died last December, and his name was added to two fallen officer monuments: one in Anniston and another in Birmingham. It’s bittersweet for Smith to see the inscription.
“You’re so grateful that your parent is being honored, but then you also have to see all these names on the wall, that it just keeps growing,” Smith said. “And it’s so sad to think that more names will be added the next year and the next year.”
Peace Officers Memorial Day has been observed on May 15 every year since President John F. Kennedy signed it into law in 1962.
“It’s an amazing feeling to know that your parent is recognized as a hero,” Smith said.
On March 22, 1995, Randy Smith and other officers responded to a call and found a man holding a two-year-old child at gunpoint. Smith was able to get the child away from the man, but in the process of trying to exit the home, he bumped into his partner, who had run around from the backside of the house to help. The partner’s weapon discharged, and Smith was shot in the head.
The damage was significant, and Smith was in a coma for three months. Exceeding his doctors’, Randy Smith survived. After going through physical rehabilitation, the family asked a neurologist about the next step.
“He said: I’ve never seen someone with this extensive amount of brain injury live,” Randall Smith recalled. “And he goes: So I’m learning with you. I have no idea what’s coming next. We just have to take it day by day and see what happens.”
Randy Smith needed daily care and fought through seizures and other lasting effects, but he lived 25 years before he died last December. Randall Smith finds inspiration in his father’s determination.
“We go through life each and every day and all these small problems that we worry about, and we’re like ‘Oh my goodness, this is the worst thing to ever happen,'” he said. “And here you have a man who’s been through 65 surgeries, his head has been – I hate to sound so graphic, but – cut into at least 10 of those surgeries, and he survived every organ failure, and he still had a great personality, even with all that he was always struggling with and fighting with.”
On Peace Officers Memorial Day, people around the country will remember all the officers like Smith who made sacrifices to protect the public.