Today, SSgt. Tom Rabjohn was laid to rest here in Arizona. His memorial was held at the same enormous NW Valley church where we honored Tony Holly just two and a half years ago. Rabjohn was deployed with his National Guard unit to Afghanistan in April of this year. On October 3, as he was defusing a roadside bomb, he noticed a sister device about to go off. He managed to get everyone else away, and paid with his life.
He was also a Phoenix Police officer.
One of his best friends eulogized him by saying, “he put his trust in Colt, Glock, Jeep, Keystone Beer, Toby Keith and Nickelback.” I didn’t know him well, but I saw what kind of officer Tom Rabjohn was while on duty myself, and after the first time I met him, I was always glad to see him on the street.
He served his country and believed in his mission. He was in EOD–Explosives Ordinance Disposal/Detection–and his job was to do exactly what he was doing that day in Afghanistan. I’m sure if we had talked to him about what he believed, he’d have said what every other soldier, police officer, and public safety worker always says: that he wants this world to be a better place, but he has no delusions that it will come without sacrifice. He paid with his life, and his wife and three daughters lost the center of their entire world. They paid, too, whether they meant to or not.
The song “If Everyone Cared” by Nickelback is one of my favorites. The chorus goes, “if everyone cared and nobody cried/if everyone loved and nobody lied/if everyone shared and swallowed their pride/then we’d see the day that nobody died.” It’s a truth those of us who are capable of love wish more than anything we could make reality. And though I didn’t know him well, I can say with confidence that SSgt. Rabjohn likely wished with all his might that he could make it reality.
But the coldness of the reality we all live with every day, the reality I see etched in the lines on the faces of the police officers, firefighters and EMT’s I work with, is far crueler than most people will ever be willing to accept. The majority of the population only knows the dramatizations that they see on prime-time television. Many will never be directly touched by the evil in this world, a fact that may be a double-edged blade. While I’m glad that our society is still holding on to right and wrong somewhere deep in our psyche, it seems that most of those who want to ban guns, stop all wars, and believe that utopia is attainable are often those who have never experienced the deepest darkness that a human being can experience.
Tom Rabjohn loved his country. Despite what so many Americans are unwilling to accept about Afghanistan, he served with distinction. And while here at home he served our city with a quiet dignity that those who are quick to cry “police brutality” will never believe. If everyone cared, we would never have to see a sight like the one that left a hole in the City of Phoenix today–that of a good man being laid to rest, having died a true hero to help save us from the evil that so many refuse to believe exists.
Thomas Rabjohn, PPD badge #7803, you did a good job. I promise we won’t let you down. And to Nikki Rabjohn, and Kylee, Koree and Kelsee, our hearts are with you. I know none of us can never wish more than you that this world wasn’t the place where Tom had to face evil so we didn’t have to.