Father’s Day in valley overshadowed with sadness

Father’s Day is meant to be a gentle holiday. It’s the Sunday in June traditionally set aside for bad ties and barbecues, corny cards and a ballgame in dad’s honor.

Good fathers spend their lives devoted to providing for and protecting their children. Long after the kids have grown up, moved away and started families of their own, dads wait like aging pinch-hitters in the dugout of time for the call that sends them to the plate to take a swing and come through in the bottom of the ninth on behalf of the home team.

Most of the time the kids need money, not a sappy baseball metaphor or a trip down memory lane. But they also know they can count on their father for help in just about any predicament.

If tradition holds at my house, daughter Amelia will present me with a homemade gift and a card, then treat me to coffee and breakfast. She no longer gets shell in the scrambled eggs and hasn’t burned the toast in several years. In the late afternoon, we’ll fire up the barbecue. Whether underdone or as black as a charcoal briquette, they will be the best meals I’ll eat all year.

But Father’s Day 2014 is different for us and, I suspect, for most all Southern Nevadans. The day is clouded by the painfully fresh memory of the senseless murder of two veteran police officers and a well-meaning citizen during a murder spree a week ago in Las Vegas.

The shooting deaths of Metro officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo and resident Joseph Wilcox at the hands of maniacal miscreants Jerad and Amanda Miller staggered the community and sent much of the Las Vegas Valley into a state of mourning.

Story after story has focused on the criminal investigation and the possible motives the killers might have had for carrying out their heinous acts. Although they spewed the vitriolic babble common to right-wing hate groups, it appears they were members of a psychotic revolution of two.

Meanwhile, we are appalled by the brutality and mourn the loss of men most of us never met. Citizens have expressed their grief in public gatherings, at candlelight vigils, and with a variety of fundraisers for the devastated families. Performers and restaurateurs have donated profits from their efforts in a reminder to the cynical that there really is a community behind the harsh facade of our great tourism machine.

On a drive Thursday down Las Vegas Boulevard, Strip resort marquees flashed the image of a Metro badge crossed by a black band in a silent tribute of the fallen officers. On U.S. 95, a long line of Metro motorcycle officers were riding two abreast as part of Soldo’s funeral procession. On an otherwise clear day, the valley was shrouded with the grieving of strangers and friends.

On Saturday morning at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, police and the public paid tribute to Beck’s life. More strangers took time to remind the family that the life of the officer mattered, and that the hearts of many good people of this community are broken, too.

One day the children will learn all about their dads’ bravery. In the coming years, they will be reminded countless times of the importance of their dads’ commitment to law enforcement. But it doesn’t fill the void.

Because of despicable acts of cowardice, small children are left without their fathers on Father’s Day.

If you can, hug your dad today. If he’s no longer here, dust off his picture and thank him for trying so damn hard.

If it’s your way, please say a prayer for those little ones named Beck and Soldo, children who lost their fathers for no sane reason, and for whom this gentle holiday will always bring a heartache.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. Follow him on Twitter @jlnevadasmith.