Dylan Bradley continues legacy of service and sacrifice

Susan EspirituFeature

My father served in the WWII, my husband in the special forces in the Vietnam War, my brother as a marine in later conflicts following as a police officer and now my son as a local firefighter in Knoxville. I understand the willingness for self-sacrifice because love of country and fellowman is greater than fear. It is an honor to know this young man, Dylan Bradley, and to share his story of service and mission to our own city.

Dylan Bradley’s legacy in his own words.

Rob O’Neill and Dylan Bradley

I recently attended a conference where Robert O’Neill, the Navy Seal who shot Bin Laden, was a keynote speaker. His testimony was all about the “Never Quit” attitude. O’Neill stated that this mission was a 99.9% one-way mission, meaning none of them expected to make it out alive. One of the most prolific terrorists in the 21st century was the main target, so they expected the worst. O’Neill said the preparation for this mission was several thousand hours of repetition. He also stated “the only perfect plan exists when you’re making it,” What he meant was nothing ever goes as planned and this was no different. They were using new aircraft technology that was only a few months old, with pilots who had only trained on the aircraft for a few weeks prior to the mission.

One of things O’Neill said that really hit home was the difference in “see you later” and “goodbye.” Before deploying for that mission, O’Neill kissed his young daughter “goodbye” in his mind, for the last time due to the survival rate of this particular mission. He stated that he’d told her several times before a deployment “see you later” but this time it was “goodbye.” That statement floored me. I could feel the sacrifice and bravery from my seat in the audience. I may have even shed a tear, but don’t tell anybody! Too often, we take the men and women in our military for granted. Because even with it being a suicide mission, they suit up and go.

As the mission continued in the plane ride over, one of the seals had to get something off of his chest. He wanted to know “why,” not that he was having second thoughts, but just simply “why.” And collectively, as a team, they broke it down. Why? For that single mother who dropped her kids off for the last time on Tuesday September, 11 2001. Why? For all the first responders who selflessly ran into the towers to their death after the planes struck. Why? For the American men and women who jumped over a hundred stories to their death because of the heat. That hit me like a rock.

It made me really re-think my “why.” I am a police officer with the Knoxville Police Department. I’ve been employed there for a little over six years and I’m currently assigned to the Organized Crime Unit as an interdiction officer. I am following in the footsteps of my father and grandfather, both of them gave 30+ years of service to KPD.

My grandfather was an assistant chief and my father retired as a sergeant. Being a third-generation officer does not come easy. The expectations are extremely high because of my last name. Over the years I have stayed on the grind trying to live up to the expectation, while also blazing my own path. Since at KPD, I’ve been awarded “Officer of the Month” three times, and also the “Life Saving Award.” After a few years in the department, I was selected to be a candidate for the SOS (SWAT) team. I graduated our SOS program and am still a current member of the most prestigious unit at KPD.

So my “why” comes from obviously trying to mirror my father, Ronnie Bradley, and grandfather, Rudy Bradley. They are not only my mentors, but my heroes. I have always said that if I can just become half of what they were/are, I will be successful at anything. But my “why” goes so much deeper. Why do I suit up every day knowing that I have a wife and two young sons of my own and it may be the last time I ever see them? I do it for the families who have lost kids of their own due to violence and domestic terrorists. I do it for the family who has a child suffering from addiction. I do it for the domestic violence victims. I do it to keep the peace on the home front. I take an enormous amount of pride knowing that, we as officers, are the line of defense between good and evil.

Morgan, Riggs, Dylan, Kyler

Being a police officer is a calling. I wasn’t recruited, I actually started my career as a firefighter with KFD. But if I said that my eyes weren’t on being a policeman the whole time, that would be a lie. I’ve wanted to be a policeman ever since I was a child. In my mind, it’s still the best job in the world, despite what may be portrayed on the media, or what happens in other cities. I love putting on that uniform and going out and making the city better than I found it.

However, this cannot be done alone. I’ve worked beside some absolute heroes in plain sight. At the police department, as well as the fire department. I cannot say enough good things about the men and women of these departments. Without them, I would not be where I am at today.

Fighting the uphill battle of keeping community relations has not been easy. But that’s where that “never quit” attitude will apply. No matter how much we get berated, when you call 911, we’ll be there. When you have a family member who is a victim of a violent crime, we’ll be there and seek that justice is served. We get called on people’s worst days. So bad that they have to call police just to handle whatever situation arises, and we will be there every time. That’s our “why” and the citizens of Knoxville should rest assured knowing that these heroes walk the streets day in and day out.

The Bradley boys,  Riggs and Kyler, are learning about lives of services from both parents as Dylan’s wife, Morgan, serves as a guidance counselor at Clinton High school.

Thank you, Dylan and Morgan, for this incredible legacy continued: “No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15: 13)

All of us have a story and I want to tell yours! Send them to [email protected]


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