One by one they came onto the stage to be recognized as the latest class of 19 newly trained conservation agents in the Missouri Department of Conservation. They had undergone six months of intensive classes in all sorts of skills and conservation subjects. They stood straight and strong in their uniforms, ready to serve in counties across the state.
Conservation agents take their roles in resource law enforcement very seriously. Since the beginning of the Missouri Department of Conservation 72 years ago, they’ve helped ensure thriving populations of many kinds of fish and wildlife for everyone to enjoy.
Their jobs can include teaching a hunter safety class and visiting a local elementary school one day, then dealing with someone illegally killing wildlife out of season the next. It’s a challenging job that requires friendliness as well as fearlessness.
The thing that surprised me in watching the graduation ceremony was how deeply I was affected as I watched family members pin the new badge on the agent shirts. It’s easy to label someone as this or that job and somehow gloss over the real human being behind all that. But it was impossible to do that when a few of the uniformed agents bent down to be pinned by their young sons. Even though I know agents personally, even though I understand the diverse nature of their jobs, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of compassion for these unique individuals taking on a these challenging roles that help us all.