"It Feels Honorable and Appropriate"
Campaign hat, campaign cover, Smokey the Bear hat – Smokey. These are a few of the names I’ve heard describing the standard issue uniform headgear assigned to Louisiana State Troopers. It is the most iconic piece of our uniform and makes troopers easily identifiable wherever they go. Upon entering the Louisiana State Police Academy, I become indoctrinated in our long, proud history and culture. Our Academy is certainly a trial by fire, but months later, I had won the prize. With my campaign hat and badge, I set out to protect and serve with loyalty, justice, and confidence. I was proud to be a Louisiana State Trooper. And nothing exhibits the pride and swagger of a Trooper like the campaign hat.
Perhaps my proudest, and most humbling, moment as a Trooper came near the very end of my career. During the 2021 National Peace Officers Memorial Service in Washington DC, several other Louisiana State Troopers and I were asked to represent the families and departments of fallen officers. We were to pin flowers on the wreaths memorializing those officers who had recently made the ultimate sacrifice. These other Troopers and I sat and stood for hours, exposed in the rain, patiently waiting for the opportunity to honor officers we had never met.
Two lines (one for each wreath) were formed for the wreath-pinning ceremony, and we would be among the very last to pin our flowers and salute the fallen. I was in one line, and the other three troopers were in the other line. I vividly remember looking to my right and seeing my three brother troopers standing in the rain, ready to perform their duties. We were all soaked to the bone but proud as hell. I will never forget the silhouettes of my fellow troopers, topped with our signature campaign hats. On such a solemn day when things really weren’t going like they should, Troopers were there, and they were going to make things right.
My hat took a beating that day, but I was proud to bring it home. Retiring just a few months later, I could think of no better keepsake than to permanently preserve this piece of my uniform. I cherish my years as a Trooper. It’s who I am. After seeing an old-timer’s bronzed hat, I knew how best to memorialize my career in a single item. There’s something about the timeless appearance and quality of the bronzing process. It feels right. It feels honorable and appropriate. It feels worthy. I would do it all again.
By: Jay O' Q of Louisiana State Troopers Association