Was he surprised? Well, not by the time he got to Crabtree and Main. By then, he was in a full-blown motorcade, with police escort, fire trucks and a few tasteful siren blasts for effect. But he smiled politely and waved a heavily-bandaged hand as banners waved and children chanted his name,
Maj. Tommy Bradford, the injured second-in-command of the Dade County Sheriff's Office, came home this morning from the hospital to a hero's welcome. The sheriff's department, aided and abetted by the organizational skills of Dr. Jan Harris, Dade's crafty schools superintendent, threw Maj. Bradford a sort of rolling surprise party. The idea was to get the county out on the streets to cheer the wounded hero home--without tipping off the wounded hero.
Which is a neat trick, considering that to achieve any kind of turnout your invite has to include press releases to get the word out. The effort started Monday,
and two days of frenzied but muted social media sharing later--TELL EVERYONE YOU KNOW! EXCEPT TOMMY!--the verdict is that it was probably not a complete astonishment to its honoree, but it was still a pretty good damn parade to be whipped up in a couple of days. Anyway, Maj. Bradford seemed pleased if a little overwhelmed. Surrounded by other vehicles in his motorcade, he visited the county's four schools to be cheered by the students and by the citizens at large who had turned out to welcome him home.
Maj. Bradford's life changed forever, and an entire county was traumatized, on the afternoon of Tuesday, Aug. 7, during a high-speed police chase up Highway 11 that had started when a woman allegedly stole an air compressor from a Fort Payne, Ala., home. She led Alabama cops to the Georgia state line, where Dade deputies joined the pursuit, and didn't stop until she was forced into a utility pole on the Trenton town square. She was transported to the hospital, checked for injury, and booked into jail.
Meanwhile, she had left Maj. Bradford bleeding in the roadway a couple of miles south on Highway 11. He had gone to lay spike strips in the road to stop her before she got to downtown. Instead, he was struck by the fugitive pickup truck and injured to the point it was clear to the medics even there at the scene that he had lost his left leg below the knee.
Maj. Bradford was airlifted to Erlanger to be treated for his massive traumas. But he wasn't the only one in shock. Residents of this close and clannish community were left stunned, disbelieving and frantic to help. They organized a prayer vigil that same night, and by Thursday an account had opened for donations for the family at Bank of Dade.
Since then, the local effort to support the wounded officer and his family has snowballed. Blue and black ribbons in support of local law enforcement in general, and Maj. Tommy in specific, began to appear on mailboxes, and a special blue-and-black version of the American flag designed by JB's Variety Store soon lined Trenton's streets. People began wearing blue and black or, as shown above, "Tommy Strong" T-shirts, which were out in force at today's impromptu parade. And every business in town seemed to have changed its sign message to "Welcome Home Tommy."
Which The Planet concludes here by echoing humbly. Welcome home, Maj. Tommy! You have lost much in serving your county, and The Planet can only hope you take comfort in the tide of love and gratitude your county renders you in return.