Welcome to a new content series called Beards Behind the Brand! Our goal with this new series is to feature empowering stories from our community to encourage and inspire each other to be the best we can be. This week we're featuring Live Bearded customer and police veteran, Kirk Lawless.
A husband… a father… a police officer.
To say that Kirk Lawless has lived a life of service is a vast understatement.
“I just turned 61 years old,” Kirk said. “I’ve been married to Lynda for 36 years. We have five kids, and 6 granddaughters. My dad is still with us at nearly 88. My mother went to Heaven when she was only 62.”
Winston Churchill once said, "All the great things are simple and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope."
Pick any one of those words and you'd be describing Kirk Lawless.
For 28 years, Kirk wore the badge of a police officer, did lots of things, saw lots of things, dangerous and bloody things, vile things… the worst side of humanity, really.
“I was brought up in the middle class,” he said. “Probably lower middle class, we just didn’t know it. Saint Louis Missouri, near the Grand Boulevard Water Tower. My grandfather was a City Marshal and escorted prisoners to the ‘Walls’ Jefferson City Penitentiary. At the time it was referred to as ‘the bloodiest 47 acres’ in the United States. Handcuffed wrist-to-wrist escort, Grandda was nobody to mess with. He and my grandmother raised six boys and one girl. None of them went bad and they all served in various conflicts.”
Kirk remembers cops always being around. He remembers being set atop a hot Harley solo seat, smelling the gas, taking in the sight of all that chrome and police gear worn by the cop who set him on his bike. He saw the sunlight reflecting off that badge and knew that one day he, too, would wear one.
“I became a cop in the town where I grew up,” he said. “The town I worked in bordered St Louis City at its northern border and was a rough area, lots of guns and drugs and violence. When I was a baby cop, one of my mentors and friends was murdered on the job. It was brutal, fighting off multiple attackers and they bested him. He would have died from the beating, but they shot him execution style, just because he was a cop.”
Kirk worked every dangerous assignment; SWAT, meth labs, undercover narcotics for a few years, as a detective and homicide investigator, I hunted armed bandits in every adjoining county on two sides of the Mississippi River.
“I served fearlessly and with compassion,” Kirk said. “Being firm but fair. I generally let the person whom I came in contact with dictate how things were going to be resolved, like in the movies; the easy way, or the hard way. The easy way is best, but some folks insist on the ‘hard’ way and I was never shy about obliging.”
As Kirk puts it, the “job” teaches you to be kind. You make lots of friends. You make lots of enemies. You run into folks who would just as soon see you dead, and some who are willing to try to make you that way. It’s a hard job, but a good one.
“Sometimes you see some shit that pretty much gives you license to be a dick for a day, but that’s my number one rule; don’t be a dick,” Kirk says. “If everybody would adhere to that rule the world would be a much better place?”
He’s got a pretty damn good point there…
Ultimately, though, what sets Kirk apart is his humility. There is nothing easy about being a cop, but Kirk has somehow managed to keep an altruistic mindset at the forefront of his personal and professional life.
“I couldn’t really pinpoint the ‘best’ moment in a career so lengthy, but among many moments were bona fide life saves, successful captures, choking babies, and random acts of kindness,” Kirk remembers fondly. “I met a little boy whose daddy wasn’t in the picture, like a first grader. D.J. liked the cops, and his mom would let him stop next to me on his ride to school, so he could wave and say good morning. I let him check out the car and turn on the lights and bump the siren, kind of stuff. One morning his ma got out of the car and told me that D.J. had been having nightmares and he wanted me to know. I got out of the car and she brought the little guy to me. I sat on the sidewalk and asked me to tell me about it and we got it sorted out. I gave him my business card with my phone number on it and told him and his mom to call me no matter the hour and we could talk about it. He knew that I was his friend. His Ma was teary-eyed when she thanked me. There might have been some pollen in the air because my eyes were a little wet as well. What color was D.J.? Does it matter? To me, absolutely not, I’m color-blind when it comes to the job and doing what’s right. God’s work!”
It’s been said before that words do less than 10 things, but actions do more than 10,000 things. That is to say, leaders don’t talk in vain; they follow with actions.
Nothing could describe Kirk Lawless better than that.
But he’ll tell you he’s just another dude trying to live his best life.
“I’m just a guy,” Kirk said. “I’ve been through it. I talk the talk because I walk the walk. I’ve seen plenty and have done plenty. I’ve already navigated the treacherous waters of the seemingly endless maze of the PTSD nightmare, fighting city hall, a corrupt system interdepartmental and in the judicial system, crooked politicians. I’ve been there and I’m not afraid of shit anymore. I used to be worth more dead than alive, now just the opposite is true. I have to stay alive and keep fighting, in order to take care of my family. Self-harm has never been an option for me (but I know lots who have “opted out”).”
So Kirk writes. He writes a lot.
He’s penned stories, notes and there is even a book in the works. He also writes for The Blue Magazine, a police publication, and they’ve made him a columnist. Zero pay, he says, but tons of exposure.
“I’ve written for Law Enforcement Today and things I have written have been turned into short films,” he said. “A letter to the man I killed” and broadcast on America OutLoud Podcast Blue lives Radio, “I am that cop.” Google search those and listen and watch. Chances are you’ll hear something eerily familiar. I’ve been able to maintain a wicked sense of humor throughout this entire ordeal and try to find the good things in people. My suggestion is find someone to talk to, outside your regular circle of friends. That’s what I do. People seek me out. I’m easy to find. I’m not hiding from anyone. If you need someone to talk to that you can trust, I’m around. You might get tired of hearing me say ‘I’m just a guy,’ but I am really just a guy. I will help you if I can. I don’t repeat anything told in confidence. PTSD is a bitch. It’s real, but do not let it rob you of your most precious asset, you! You are a vessel. You can be broken, but you can be fixed (well, not completely) but you can recover to the point you are able to function. I like to say, ‘I’m still sore, but I’m on the mend.’ No matter what, you have value.”
For those struggling, Kirk says vehemently that you can’t just sit around. Do something. Build something, draw something, write something, get out in the natural world, find something to take care of if you can.
“You might think you don’t have a support group?” Kirk said. “If you’re reading this you’ve already found one! There are entities that can help you, The Wounded Blue, Badge of Life Canada, the Code 9 Project, Safe Call Now. Only. One. Phone. Call. Away. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll do my best to help.”
As for Kirk’s beard, he shaved his beard off one time for charity and he says he’ll never cut it again.
“I’ve tried all the products out there and that’s how you’re reading this,” Kirk said about Live Bearded. “I just saw an advertisement on Facebook and thought, hey, I’ll give that a try. I did. Stuff works. Does everything they said it would. But what I’ve discovered about Live Bearded is it’s really a brotherhood. Is it a support group? You bet? I have lots of friends I’ve made since becoming a customer. Anthony, Spence, and the entire crew, if I need something or need to holler at somebody, I always hear from someone and us it’s always quick.
“The brotherhood I once enjoyed in the police department I found in the Live Bearded community.”
At Live Bearded we believe Brotherhood goes beyond the beard. We believe it is our responsibility, as men, to do better every day, to learn from our mistakes, grow through our failures, and strive to be the best we can be.
Through sharing stories of the men in the Live Bearded Brotherhood, we're continually learning and growing from each other. If you are interested in being considered for a Beards Behind the Brand story, send us an email!