Protect And Serve: A Family Tradition

There is a funny feeling you get when you sit down with a police officer to have a conversation and a piece of pie. You can’t help but wonder what they’re thinking and if you make a sudden movement if they’ll follow your lead. Do you make and maintain direct eye contact the entire conversation or do you look away occasionally, just out of respect?

You ask yourself, what is the best way to distract from the fact that one time in 11th grade you ran from a party as one of their co-policemen pulled up to find order in what was a Friday night after football game get together? Albeit many moons ago, do they know? Is it written on my face? Do I confess my sins now or later? If you’re talking about Celina Police Department Officer Chris Bardwell, you tell him everything. Straight up.

You tell him about that time you cried the first time you ever got a warning, the time you were pulled over in the carline at school while dropping your daughter off and about those times in your 1983 Camaro cruising the drag, music blaring, cringing when you saw red and blue lights flashing anywhere in the distance on Saturday night because you knew one of your classmates was going to have a story to tell on Monday morning.
Yes, it’s best to just be honest with him. He was honest when he spoke of his days as a teenager growing up in a small town close to Lake Texoma. There wasn’t a tale that I could tell that he couldn’t match or outdo with a hilarious story about what we think of and recall about police officers growing up. We talked Charlie’s Angels and Starski and Hutch, as Journey played in the background of Lucy’s Café – which by the way makes an incredible piece of coconut pie.

He was also honest about the fact that because he works nights now, he had just come off of an interesting shift. The highlight of the night? Being spit on by a heavily intoxicated woman after having been cursed out and called every name in the book. She, in her drunken stupor was insulting him personally and professionally, I’ll leave the exact adjectives used to your imagination.

He was told to shut up between slurry expletives. “It’s just part of the job,” he laughs, as he makes it known that it was a mild night of protecting citizens. The irony that is so apparent to me is that, had that woman been pinned under a car or helplessly seeking her child, he would have helped. He would have moved the moon and the stars to do whatever he could for her, or anyone, despite anyone’s preconceived notions or ideas about who police officers are and what they do. We’ve all had them.

It seems that police officers are often in the hot seat in the media, especially lately. If attention isn’t being drawn to what could have been handled differently, in scenarios there’s attention regarding fallen officers having been intentionally targeted for crimes. Why is it that policemen are the first to take harsh criticism and yet too, they’re the first people we want on the scene of a crime or if something poses a danger to us or to our families. We beg the question as a society, do our actions justify the justice that we seek? That isn’t a question police officers ask. They protect us anyway.

In a world where the media can twist stories to the benefit of whomever is telling them, it is easy to see that in any case, in any industry and in any field, especially in a career that is in the public eye, one bad apple spoils the whole bunch. They’re out there, it can’t be denied, even Officer Bardwell will say it. He also says that there’s nothing that makes police officers out there risking their lives daily more furious than an officer that doesn’t respect his position or the position of other officers out there doing good work. The BEST kind of work out there if you’ve ever needed one.

Let me tell you about police officers. Every single one I’ve ever met out in the world who wasn’t on duty or without a shiny badge looks just like a regular guy. They don’t talk or walk different, they don’t wear mirrored aviator sunglasses or ride side by side on motorcycles eating donuts. They aren’t hiding or scouting out around corners, just watching for you to make your next mistake. They’re in grocery stores, on the square, playing ball in the park and at movie theaters doing what all of us as regular people do. They are brothers, sisters, mothers, daughters and like Chris Bardwell, they’re Dad’s.

He’s the kind of Dad like most, that has a teenage daughter calling to ask for money or a ride to the mall. He’s the kind of Dad who beams with pride when he talks about his son graduating from the Police Academy this month. This is the case for Chris’ son Brock, who is now on staff as a police officer himself at the McKinney Police Department. He’s also the kind of Dad that every teenager should have the opportunity to have, as he has no problem waiting for his daughter Brianna in the school car line playing “Bad Boys”, the theme song from the show Cops, full blast over the intercom of his police car just to subtly make her aware that he has arrived and encourage her to make her way to the car. He is a devoted husband to his wife Denise. He’s funny, he’s real and he’s someone you’d want with you on the front lines.

Chris remembers going to work with his Dad and watching police film down in the basement of Grayson College from an early age. He states that he had never considered any other field of work other than public safety or professional football…and since he wasn’t drafted to the NFL, he jokes that the decision was easy.

He gets his protective spirit and heart to serve, honestly. Chris’ father Jerry Bardwell has an impressive history in law enforcement as well. After the Police Academy, he spent 4+ years with the Richardson and Plano Police Departments. Jerry then spent 36 more years serving as the first Police Academy Director with Texoma Regional Police Academy in Denison, Texas that opened in 1972.

Jerry has two brothers, Milton, the oldest, was a Marine and a State Trooper, and Hubert, who was named after their uncle who was killed in World War II, worked for the Collin County Sheriff’s department. Uncle Hubert has two sons – Mike, who after his time in the U.S. Air Force was recently promoted from Captain to Battalion Chief at the Fire Department in Denton, and Dano, who also served in the Air Force and now works for the Frisco Police Department as a Detective.

Dano says he was surrounded by older role models in his family. He admires how they held themselves to a higher standard, understanding that honesty and integrity are the keys to one’s character. They also showed him that being a part of something bigger than himself is worth more than anything money can buy.

The Bardwell family genes and rich family history run back as far as World War II, when Great Uncle Hubert Wayne Bardwell fought and died protecting our country as a U.S. Marine on the island of Saipan on June 14, 1944. Another Great Uncle, Brainard Bardwell, also fought in World War II in the U.S. Navy. Needless to say, a Bardwell family reunion is in order and it would be one of the safest events held this side of the Red River.

One family, serving a total of over 171 years in combined police, fire and military is impressive, I don’t care who you are. Chris still remembers a few of his Dad’s stories and talks about how much times have changed through the years. He’s seen a lot in his time fighting crime and has won many awards for saving lives. Chris offered 22.5 years of loyal and dedicated service with the City of Grand Prairie and is now happy to call the Celina Police Department his work home.

Out of their uniforms, they’re just like our fathers, brothers and uncles. Police officers have stories, lives, children at home and memories of what it was like to be young and maybe a little more carefree. If you think about it, maybe the next time you have the opportunity to speak with one, you could look them boldly in the eye and say, “Thank you” for doing the work that it takes a special breed of person to do. No one likes to be the bad guy or the bearer of bad news in any situation. But if you recognize the selflessness and the acts of courage and even restraint from law enforcement daily, it’s easier to put yourself in their shoes. At the end of the day, they’re just trying to keep you and the people you hold dear, safe.

Like the woman who encountered Officer Bardwell, we all have bad days. It’s how we handle things that determine who we are. There is good in every person alive and thanks to three generations of Bardwell Officers, there is no denying that our little piece of the world is safer and will be for generations to come. We’re grateful for that.

By Jodie Brownd

On the Heels of National Police Week (May 13th-19th) Memorial Day (May 28th) and with Father’s Day just around the corner on June 17th, we couldn’t think of a better time to honor not only a family of heroes that have put their lives on the line for decades, but the dad’s, uncles, husbands and brothers that they all represent.

With a heritage and family tree so abundant with the fruits of their labor, these men and their bravery and desire to make the world a better place are to be celebrated. Happy Police Week, Memorial Day and Father’s Day Chris Bardwell, to your family and brothers on the front lines, whether policemen, firemen or military for keeping the Bardwell family tradition alive.

This article is dedicated to Hubert Wayne Bardwell I, who in WWII, just seconds before dying, handed his Browning automatic rifle to a buddy, John F. Burnett, and said, “Even if I can’t see this battle through, my rifle still can. Please carry it for me.” Little did he know; his gun wouldn’t be the only thing carried for him. Along with his death, a family tradition was carried too.

Bardwell Family History of Service

Brock Bardwell – McKinney Police Department
Chris Bardwell – Celina Police Department

Jerry Bardwell – Police Academy Director with Texoma Regional Police Academy

Delbert Bardwell – Cosdon Oil

Hubert Wayne Bardwell II – Collin County Sherriff’s Department

Milton Bardwell – Texas State Trooper & United States Marine Corp

Mike Bardwell – Battalion Chief at Denton Fire Department and U.S. Air Force

Dano Bardwell – Detective for Frisco Police Department and U.S. Air Force

Hubert Wayne Bardwell I- United States Marine Corp- Killed in Saipan WWII

June 14,1944.

Great Uncle Brainard Bardwell -United States Navy WWII

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