Saturday, February 27, 2010

Deputy Joel Wahlenmaier Martyr

Deputy Joel Wahlenmaier Martyr
Deacon Dale Matson
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (Rev. 12:11, NKJV).
A Martyr is a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). There will be lots written about Wally’s death but the following is a personal response from a civilian volunteer who was privileged to work with him on the Fresno County Search and Rescue Team (SAR). This is about a death in the family. As volunteers we are grafted into this family but the loss is no less shocking and the grief no less genuine. To some extent these comments will generalize beyond the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department but it is to them that I write this letter.
Wally and others I have worked with, walk out the door every day knowing they may have to give their life in the service to others. They also know that they may have to take a human life to protect others. This commitment to these two principles separates them from us. Every day they must (whether they are conscious of this or not) exhibit the Cardinal Virtues of Justice, Prudence, Patience and Fortitude. For us, these virtues are something we strive for. For them, these virtues are a necessary constitutional requirement. These individuals are necessary for our society to function. Their presence is protective and preventative, their service is to apprehend and their skills help to contain those who become violent. They stand in the gap on our behalf.
Wally and the deputies are my kind of heroes, not writers for the New York Times, Gold Medal Olympians or individuals in high political office. I have been with them searching off trail under difficult conditions for an entire day. They rest for a couple of hours and search again all night while I am too tired to continue. Their focus was on the mission. Their humanity was evident when despite all our efforts we were unable to find a young female in time. I have seen deputies with eye injuries and pulled muscles refuse to quit the search hoping we would find someone before they succumbed to the elements. I trust my life to the judgment of the deputies as our SAR team leaders.
Wally’s death was shocking, unexpected and numbing but it didn’t lack meaning. I personally believe his presence in general and his death in particular was substitutionary. He stood in our place. He and individuals like him make our society possible. A martyr is a witness and Wally’s life was a witness to all of us.
As a Christian, my Lord commands me to forgive but He also knows that this is not yet my time and will be patient with me about it. Each has his or her time too but for now I must simply say I’m sorry, so sorry for what has happened to Wally and to us. Amen


Anonymous said...

A truly great man entered the gates of heaven on Friday. Joel was a great leader in the way he lived his life. He was a stellar family man with rock solid moral character second to none. He loved his wife Bev and children Amy and Austin more than life itself, and they always came first. As a friend, Joel was more than any person could ask for. If you needed a helping hand, Joel was always willing to help, and always with a smile. Joel was always dedicated to doing the right thing, and it showed in the way he lived his life. My heart goes out to the Wahlenmaier family, relatives and friends of Joel. A living symbol of all that is good has been taken from us, and has entered the gates of heaven. Please watch over us Joel, and thank you for making all of our lives better by knowing you.

Dale Matson said...

A Scholarship has recently been established in Joel's name.The following is a part of the information.
So much of Joel's legacy was
established by Joel and the life he lived. For those that have known him, and for those that
learn of Joel's life in the future, he will always impress us, inspire us, and make us feel so
grateful he was part of our life.
If you would like to make a tax deductible contribution, please make a check payable to
SCCC Foundation and write Joel Wahlenmaier-902749 in the reference section on the
bottom, left side of the check. Send check to:
State Center Community College District
1525 E. Weldon Avenue
Fresno, CA 93704
If you have any questions, please contact me at 559-855-8752 or email me at you in advance for your support.
Sincerely, Greg Marks
Scholarship Coordinator & Friend

Dale Matson said...

I was thinking of Joel today and how much he and other peace officers are like the Japanese technicians who have gone into the radioactive reactor plants to stop a meltdown. They are doing this knowing that ultimately they are allowing the poisonous environment to contaminate them and possibly kill them. The same thing can be said of the environment of the peace officer.