How one Missouri officer and Air Force veteran is #StillServing his community
The #StillServing program celebrates the continued service of America’s heroes after they’ve left the armed forces
By RoseAnn Sorce
Major Darren Ivey has devoted his life to serving and protecting others; now, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is recognizing him for his service as part of its new national campaign, #StillServing.
Before joining the Kansas City (Missouri) Police Department (KCPD), Major Ivey was a law enforcement specialist/supervisor in the U.S. Air Force, where he served for nine years. After leaving the military, he followed his childhood dream and joined the police force.
“When I was in elementary school, I met an officer through the local Officer Friendly program,” Ivey said. “After meeting him and hearing what he did, I was hooked. My maternal grandfather also was a police chief and all of my uncles were involved in law enforcement. I feel that I was put on this earth to serve others and to show people that they are loved. Being an officer is all I have ever wanted to do.”
Major Ivey’s work as an officer led him to find another passion: providing self-care and resilience training for first responders and military veterans and their families. In 2014, while serving as commander of the KCPD’s Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), Major Ivey began to see just how many first responders and military members were affected by trauma, secondary trauma and stress. He also saw the effects including permanent and profound behavioral change, chronic exhaustion, fear, illness, anger, avoidance and work absenteeism and turnover. His work with the CIT was the catalyst in the creation of a training program, “Building Resilience: Surviving Secondary Trauma.”
Along with 12 other KCPD members and in partnership with a local Kansas City hospital, Major Ivey led a team to develop a course teaching participants to recognize stress and secondary trauma’s physical and emotional effects and to develop coping skills to build resiliency for both self and peer support. The training has been taught to thousands of first responders, military members, veterans, social service members and families and has led to partnerships with other organizations including My Battle Within, Save a Warrior and the Pause First Project.
In addition to developing Building Resilience, Major Ivey is a mentor with Lead to Read, a program that pairs first- and second-grade students with adult volunteers to develop the children’s reading skills. According to Ivey, he always makes sure to represent the police force when working with the children.
“Being in uniform gives the kids, who are often very afraid of police officers, a chance to see police in a positive way,” Ivey said. “When we are first partnered with our students, it is always so interesting because you see the uncertainty in the child’s face when they see they are partnered with a police officer. However, by the end of the semester, you have become one of their best friends.”
One of Major Ivey’s most memorable moments came from working with a group of children who immigrated from developing countries.
“After we did our required reading, our conversation turned to about being a police officer and my prior military service,” Ivey said. “They were so in awe that I had served in the military and was still alive. At first, that didn’t really hit me until I realized that where many of these children are from, people don’t return from military service. Even though the conversation was heavy at times, we also shared in fun and laughter. Two of the students even said that they would like to become police officers when they grew up. It is incredible that they would consider that, as most of the countries that these boys and their families come from have a strong distrust and fear of the police.”
As a result of his service to the community, the VFW honored Major Ivey by recognizing him as a #StillServing Hero. #StillServing aims to celebrate the continued service of America’s heroes after they’ve left the armed forces.
“I believe that the desire to serve and protect others is the main reason most people join the military,” Ivey said. “Often, after our military career ends, we stop that service, which is one of the worst things we can do for our mental health. I encourage all my fellow veterans to find a way to continue to serve. There are so many opportunities out there and agencies that are just aching for help.”
For more information on the Building Resilience program, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author
RoseAnn Sorce is an account executive at Sturges Word Communications in Kansas City, Missouri. She currently is working with the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) on their newest campaign, #StillServing.