When we or someone else we know is in trouble, we know we can call 911.

When we’re sick, we can expect to be treated by a nurse.

When there’s an emergency, we can call local emergency services to help. Sometimes they’ll just show up.

But do we ever stop and think about what the people in these professions actually do, or do we take it for granted? It’s easy to do the latter when you’re not accustomed to the unthinkable happening here because it just doesn’t – until it does.

On Thursday night, two of the scariest words heard over the local police scanner were uttered: “Officer down.” It marked the first time in nearly 30 years such an incident has taken place locally, according to Columbus Police Capt. Todd D. Thalken.

Columbus Police Sgt. Bradley Wangler, a 19-year veteran of our police force, suffered gunshot wounds in the shoulder and neck when a 24-year-old Grand Island man allegedly fired a gun at him when he and another officer tried to apprehend the man wanted on an outstanding warrant.

The officer was treated at Columbus Community Hospital before being flown via helicopter to the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, where he continued to receive treatment over the weekend.

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Wangler, we’re told, is an outstanding resident with many ties to the community. He is a husband and proud father.

Law enforcement officers in the past several years have been in the spotlight for a bunch of negative headlines, but it’s imperative we not let a few bad apples, who aren’t even in our communities, sour our opinion on an entire group. Our area law enforcement officers take a lot of heat and deal with quite a bit. Each day, these brave men and women are putting their lives on the line to protect and serve our communities. We hear and read about drug busts, murders, shootings and other crimes, but these people are the ones who deal with them firsthand. That’s not including what you don’t hear about on a regular basis that these officers do to keep our community safe.

And sadly, some of these men and women have lost their lives protecting us.

The truth of the matter is the folks who choose to protect and serve are highly underappreciated for what they do. These brave men and women are someone’s child, spouse, father, mother, sibling and friend, and each day they put on the badge, they run the risk of not coming home.

So thank you to Sgt. Wangler, we wish you a speedy recovery. And thank you to all of our law enforcement officers and first responders for your service. We pray incidents like last week continue to be rare occurrences, but it’s nice to know you’re there protecting us when and if they happen. Your efforts do not go unnoticed.


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