02/13/2013 09:58 am ET Updated Apr 15, 2013

That Is Why They Call Them Heroes

In addition to prayers for a seriously wounded deputy sheriff and police officer, California's Inland Empire mourns two heroes, in two counties, one whose identity we know, one yet to be announced, but in some ways we already know their finest attributes. The Bible proclaims that "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

The value of a life is not found in its longevity but in its selfless devotion to others. Even though there are those too ignorant to comprehend it, there are events in our world that clearly illuminate the stark dividing line between good and evil, between those who snuff out innocent lives, and those who selflessly perish protecting them. Evil went on a rampage and today we mourn and pray for those who stood between it and us.

In the face of danger and heartbreak our protectors did not hesitate or flinch. Not for a second. When others squawked, criticized, and speculated, the heroes among us, simply did what the brave do. Without fanfare they faced down the hidden danger, even when the terrain was steep and the elements harsh. When they came under intense fire in combat conditions, they valiantly rescued their own.

All the brave officers serving in Inland Empire law enforcement feel in their hearts what Shakespeare wrote centuries ago, "O, this is the poison of deep grief ... When sorrows come, they come not single spies. But in battalions."

The pain is so real because those lost are more than news snippets or their uniforms, they are the irreplaceable souls that define our community. Riverside Police Officer Michael Crain perished in a sudden ambush on him and his partner on February 7. He was the best of one of us, educated at one of our local colleges and a decorated Marine. The 11-year police veteran served all over the city, from helicopters to training to SWAT to baseball coach. Most of all he was a family man who dearly loved his two beautiful young children, just four and 10 years old. The department release summed him up this way: "Mike's family and friends knew his usually straight face hid a huge personality. He made an unforgettable impression on everyone he met."

We will soon find out more about our San Bernardino deputies, one of whom fighting for his life, the other whose life was taken.

But attacks on our police are not only just individual acts of violence against brave members of our community. America's laws lie at the heart of all the freedoms we enjoy and often take for granted, and more than anyone, it is the police who valiantly protect the citizens, institutions and processes of our exceptional vibrant democracy from the cancer of chaos and unrepentant violence. When an accomplished life is endangered or brutally taken not only in the protection of others, but to guarantee a just and civil society from those miscreants who declare war on it, there is simply no higher calling. That is why we call them heroes.

Note: Brian Levin is a former New York City Police Officer.