“A lot of officers still, I know they still fight demons,” says Sgt. Chris Chavous who founded Support 1.
In fewer than six months three local officers lost their lives in the line of duty. Their fellow officers lost brothers and a sister. Sgt. Chavous knows how that feels.
“I can say it from personal experience, I let mine overflow,” Chavous says of his grief.
Over the course of 2007-2008 he lost a fellow officer and saw another stabbed. With so much going wrong, he founded Support 1 at the right time. It was started just after Richmond County Deputy J-D Paugh's death, and it became official right after the death of Aiken Public Safety Officer Sandy Rogers.
“Your cup can't get filled but so much before it overflows,” he says. “A lot of stress management and stuff that we train for, it helps take that cup and pour a little bit out at a time.”
Support 1 provides peer counseling and other support to officers; that includes firefighters and EMTs who don't receive that support from the state. A golf tournament teed off in Aiken to raise money and be sure those resources are ready.
“They're first responders,” says volunteer Shelley Craft. “They're real people too and have to go home and live with that vision in their minds. They need help as well.”
With so much hurt in a community, it can be easy to forget that heroes are human and need help.
“Sometimes in law enforcement and firefighting, the general public looks at us like we're just doing the job,” says Aiken Public Safety Chief Charles Barranco. “They have families, they have feelings, and they have needs themselves,” he says of his officers.
And when the stakes are high, they need support.
“I've seen it cause divorces, I've seen marriages crushed, I've seen lives crushed,” Chavous says.
No one tells how many officers asked for help or who took it, but the difference is clear to see.
“You can't put a quantitative figure on it,” says Barranco. “It is seen in the day today of the officers and how they interact with the citizens they serve.”
And he says that's a reason to support Support 1.