A letter to a hero's son

I figured I owed this letter written to Eric Schroder to be posted along with the tribute to his father... God bless you and your mother, Amy during your difficult time.

Friday, September 08, 2006
Regina Brett
Plain Dealer Columnist

Dear Eric,

You won't remember much about your dad.

We knew him as Detective Jonathan "A.J." Schroeder.

You knew him as daddy. Those big hands that cradled you. That huge smile that hovered over you. That nearly bald head that matched your own.

You're just a peanut of a boy right now. Only 10 months old.

But for the rest of your life, you will grow up hearing that your father died in the line of duty.

One day you'll ask, What does that mean?

What is the line of duty?

You saw that line, although you won't remember it. You were so small.

The line of duty stretched for blocks. Hundreds of men and women in blue, in crisp white gloves, in shiny black shoes, young and old, black, white and brown. It looked like an entire army showed up at St. John Cathedral on Sept. 6, 2006.

If only you were older. You would have loved the police dog yapping and the horses stomping and the motorcycles rumbling.

There were bagpipes and drums, church bells then silence. It grew so quiet, as if the world stood still.

Oh, the tears. You made the toughest men cry. When they saw you enter the church they grieved for a little boy who would never know his daddy.

Somewhere in your heart you will remember him, that man behind the stroller, beaming more brightly than the brightest light bar on any squad car.

They called your dad a distinguished detective who never shied away from a tough assignment.

They said he was always about the mission of serving others.

They used words like integrity, brave, courageous, noble, valiant.

They said he was everything you could want in a police officer. Hard-working. Fair. Kind. Gentle.

They said he never complained and always smiled.

They said his life and death brought true honor to the slogan "Protect and Serve."

His life was a prayer, the one that says, "Where there is hatred, let me bring love, where there is despair, hope, where there is darkness, light."

The line of duty took him into the darkest dark. He brought light and hope to good people who live in bad neighborhoods.

The darkness didn't taint him. They said he treated suspects as if they were victims.

They called your dad a great officer, a great man, a joy to be around.

They promised never to forget him. They promised to be there for the rest of your life.

That means they will help you remember him. Any time. Anywhere. Your dad has hundreds of brothers and sisters at the Cleveland Police Department.

Your dad fought the good fight. And he won.

He didn't lose his life. He traded it for an eternal one. He fulfilled the greatest commandment of all: To love.

A love that is bigger than self. A love that demands sacrifice. A biblical love: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for a friend."

They will tell you that your dad died in the line of duty. The truth is, he crossed over it.

He still lives in your heart. Any time you need to see his smile, you can.

Just look in the mirror.

Donations can be sent to the Jonathan Schroeder Memorial Fund, c/o Cleveland Police Credit Union, 2301 Payne Ave., Cleveland, OH 44114.