LIMA ‚?? Officer Dave Vastano has played the role of a father figure through the years for many children as he‚??s worked to keep them safe.
Vastano has spent the last 13 years on the Lima Police Department as a school resource officer teaching safety programs in schools as well as heading Safety City, a place children go to learn about various safety topics.
For some children, he‚??s a father figure many lack.
As Father‚??s Day approaches, Vastano sat down to talk about what Father‚??s Day means to him and through the eyes of a police officer.
For him, it all starts with his own father, who died when he was 13 years old.
‚??He probably left one of the best examples for me to follow,‚?Ě Vastano said.
In that short time together, Vastano spent a lot of time with his father at his corner grocery store in Lima. He treasures every minute, he said.
‚??Those years he had me, I was with him all the time,‚?Ě he said.
Vastano remembers the important lessons his father taught him on how to be a good person. He incorporates those lessons into everyday life to this day.
‚??He always taught me the importance of character, honesty and integrity. That was always something that was nudged at me. I think that is one of the reasons I wanted to become a police officer,‚?Ě he said.
As Vastano grew into an adult, met his wife, Deb, and had children of his own, those experiences have led him to treasurer Father‚??s Day even more. At the Vastano house, Father‚??s Day means a family barbecue or dinner, just spending time together.
Being a police officer for any period of time, let alone the 27 years Vastano has on the job, also gives a man a different perspective on Father‚??s Day.
The divorce rate is high for police officers, some surveys place it as high as 84 percent. To be able to be married to the same woman for 38 years, raise three children and stay madly in love, Vastano said is a blessing he thinks about every Father‚??s Day.
With police work, there is no guarantee of tomorrow. Vastano and the rest of the department‚??s officers were reminded of that earlier this year when an officer was stabbed in the head. The incident made him count his blessings as well as reflect.
‚??The job always has an element where you could potentially put your life at risk. It can happen just in the blink of an eye,‚?Ě he said.
And, like most officers, he‚??s had his share of close calls. He once was involved in traffic crash with a tanker truck. Fortunately walked away from it. He also had to help tackle a guy who was preparing to shoot him and his partner with a shotgun.
Beyond that, Vastano has an appreciation for Father‚??s Day every day he goes to work. He comes across children every day who are fortunate enough to have fathers around.
‚??Kids that don‚??t have dads or dads are not in their lives, they look for male role models,‚?Ě he said. ‚??Going through what I went through and knowing how important it was that I was blessed with a dad.‚?Ě
Vastano loves working with kids and he‚??s the perfect guy for it. Inside his 56-year-old body is a 7-year-old boy waiting to jump out at any moment, and he does. Vastano has various characters he transfers into, armed with a funny voice that allows him to relate to children.
‚??I love kids and I love to work with kids,‚?Ě he said. ‚??You act like a kid and get down to their level. It‚??s to learn how to be safe in a fun way.‚?Ě
While there are many fun aspects of working with children, there‚??s also some sad times. Through the years, children without fathers have asked Vastano if he would be their father or if they could go home with him. He tries to help them with attention and spending some extra time with them in class.
‚??You really can‚??t replace a kid‚??s father but you can display the attributes of a father to the kids,‚?Ě he said.
Each day, Vastano goes to work with his wife, Deb. She‚??s a volunteer who helps out and he is thankful for that, and cherishes the fact he can work with her every day. He also gets the chance to have his grandson, Dylan Marston, helping him at Safety City during the summers.
Even though he‚??s 10, his grandson helps teach the lessons and Vastano said is capable of teaching all the lessons in full.
To him, the chance to work with family is a script he would have never dreamed of writing when he became a police officer but it‚??s special and something else he‚??s thankful for on Father‚??s Day.
Officer Dave Vastano