Sometimes police officers are just those folks driving by us.

After we give a sigh of relief that we haven't been stopped for going over the speed limit, we tend to begin thinking of more mundane activities. We don't think about where the officer is headed or whether he or she will survive the day.

What we forget in those brief moments is the fact that these public servants put their lives on the line for us every day.

That realization was never truer than in the life of Howard County Sheriff's Deputy Carl Koontz.

The three-year department veteran — married and the father of an 8-month-old son — was fatally shot in the line of duty on March 20 while serving an arrest warrant at Russiaville.

The 27-year-old deputy had worked extra hours that day to help serve the warrant. His partner, Sgt. Jordan Buckley, was injured but is recovering.

The suspect, who was wanted for failing to appear in court on a charge of possession of a syringe, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Friends recalled Koontz as a role model.

In fact, a Northwestern High School senior, Trey Morris, knew Koontz as the man who worked twice a week as a school resource officer.

On the Saturday night before the shooting, Koontz had stopped his patrol car to talk to the senior, chatting about "how to be a good man and stay out of trouble."

It was "like talking to my best friend," Morris said.

Earlier on the day of the shooting, Koontz had likely passed hundreds of drivers; most wouldn't think that the officer would give his life for public service.

Most of us don't think twice about the fragility and uncertainty of a police officer's job, of human life in general.

We need dedicated servants to fill that role. They are the ones we turn to when we confront an emergency. And even then, as police respond, officers never know what kind of situation they're entering.

It's a role many of us take too lightly.

Now when he think of Deputy Carl Koontz, we all come a little closer to understanding the vital significance and purpose of the police officer passing us on the street.

The public is invited to his funeral at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Northwestern High School.

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