“Every great achievement begins in the mind of one person who dared to dream big and to believe that it was possible.”
That was the message that Marlos Walker and Samuel Yoh brought to those attending the Fourth Annual Junior Police Academy in Daleville July 13.
Walker is the Ozark Police Chief. Yoh is an Ozark Police Officer who was recovering after being shot multiple times in the head in the line of duty Dec. 12, 2019.
Both were keynote speakers during the two-week intensive training program July 6 through July 17, hosted by the Daleville Department of Public Safety to introduce youth between the ages of 13 and 18 to the inside operations of the police, rescue and fire departments.
The opportunity to learn about first responders from first responders gave the teens a look into how the careers of Walker and Yoh began and where their respective journeys have led them.
Yoh came from a farm family, he told the cadets. “I wanted to take after my grandparents and go into farming but my father said, ‘Absolutely not,’” he said. “My father said he wanted better things for me than what he had. He was a mechanic.”
Yoh’s initial interest in law enforcement was in becoming a forest ranger. “When I got into law enforcement I was one of these stereotypical cops that wanted to be a helpful person,” he said. “I still have that desire to help.”
Yoh made headlines after being shot multiple times while answering a 911 call Dec. 12 on duty as an Ozark Police Department Officer.
He was shot six times by a person who was alleged to be suicidal. “He was bound and determined to kill someone that day,” Yoh said about the man who shot him four times in the head, in the arm and in the ankle. “I found out later that he had been threatening his mom before she called 911.
“I still have one bullet in my head. I got lucky. The bullet was millimeters from taking my life. Literally cut my brain right in half. The one to my jaw went clean in and clean out,” Yoh said. “The doctor told my wife that I had about 20 percent chance of surviving 48 hours.”
Because he was kept in a medically induced coma, Yoh does not remember much that followed the shooting. “I remember being awake in the middle of January,” he said.
The last surgery Yoh had was Dec. 21, 2019, to remove the bullet behind his left eye and to “fix” his forehead. “I was not a pretty sight. Full of staples, bruising, it was not a pretty picture.”
Yoh is assigned to desk duty pending his full recovery. “I want to get back to the job. My goal is to get back to full active duty.
“My stopping point is when my body says ‘enough,’” Yoh said. “If I can give 30 years to law enforcement, then I will have had a successful career.
“The ‘Thin Blue Line’ is the brotherhood that links all of us together,” Yoh said, referring to a term used to represents the thin line police officers walk daily between life and death while maintaining order in chaos. “If you’re part of the ‘Blue Line,’ you are part of a huge family that you are not even aware of until its is necessary,” Yoh said. “You need to exhibit the best behavior that you can to show that you are worthy of the badge and the public’s trust in you.
“My God worked hard for me so I’m going to work hard for Him and me working hard for him is working hard for that man in the back,” Yoh said, pointing to his police chief.
Walker told the cadets that being a police officer was his goal from childhood. “You can do anything you want to do because when I tell you where I come from, you will see what I mean,” he told the cadets. “At the age of eight or 10 years old, I knew without a doubt that I was going to be a police officer.”
Walker said he was raised by his great aunt and grandmother because of parents who were addicts. “Being able to take care of me was not on their high priority list,” he said. “I remember walking through my neighborhood when it was dark—there were certain places you couldn’t go.
“A police officer meant, to me, that the guy was a good guy. He saves people, he helps people,” Walker said. “That has stuck with me all of these years as I strive to help people, to serve people, just do right by people. That’s what the uniform symbolizes to me.”
Walker asked the cadets to write down at least two goals. “Every dream must take the form of a plan. The old saying that ‘you get what you plan for,’ is so true,” Walker said. “Your dream won’t just happen. You have to make it happen.”
Walker said he told anyone who would listen that he wanted to be a police officer. “When I was 14 I told those same people that I was going to be chief of police in Ozark one day,” he said.
In a law enforcement career that has spanned more than two decades, Walker has also served as Abbeville Police Chief, Dale County Sheriff Department Operations Commander and Wiregrass Violent Crimes and Drug Task Force Commander. “Every great achievement began in the mind of one person who dared to dream, to believe that it was possible. Think big,” he said.
“Everyone who has been been successful has received help along the way,” Walker reminded the cadets. “If you’re not focused on what you are doing, an opportunity will pass you right by.
“Pray to God every day, always say thank you, help every person,” Walker advised. “At the end of the day, the reason people wear these badges is that they really want to help people.”