MILWAUKEE — When you think of an anniversary, what comes to mind? A wedding? Time spent at a job? A move to a new place?
"We learned that across the country the various police organizations, various paramilitary organizations, that when an officer dies it's called their anniversary when you get to that date," Doug Jerving shared.
But for him and his wife Patty, February 7th feels like anything but an anniversary.
"You think of your wedding anniversary. That's a good thing. To me, that's what an anniversary is supposed to be. A celebration. It's hard to think of this as a celebration. I think of this as a memorial," he continued.
February 7th is the day their time with their son, Peter, was cut short.
"It didn't seem real for so long. But, I think I know it's real now," Patty said.
Milwaukee Police Officer Peter Jerving was shot and killed on February 7th, 2023 while trying to arrest a robbery suspect. He was 37 and had four years of service.
Patty said it was important to her to know exactly what happened the night her son died. She feels he would have wanted her to know as well. She wrote about reading the investigative report and watching the body camera video in a book she started writing, "Death by Homicide."
"Why did I read the investigative reports about the night that my son died? Why did I put myself through the gut wrenching emotional ordeal to see exactly what were the last moments and words of my son's life? I knew deep down inside myself that Peter would have wanted me to know," Patty read from a chapter of her book. "Many people called Peter a hero. Why? Why did grown men, hardened by their own hardships as police officers themselves, have tears in their eyes when they offered me their condolences? Why did they call my Peter a hero? I knew that Peter would want me to know why."
Patty plans to finish her book after police week in May. She and Doug plan on traveling to D.C. during that time to honor their son, and she wants to include that trip in her story.
Part of that story is remembering just how much her son loved the community he served, and how that love was returned to the Jervings during the toughest days of their lives.
"Peter loved Milwaukee, and over this past year Milwaukee has shown how much it loves Peter. And that's mean a lot," Patty shared. "It was just nice to see how much they appreciated not just Peter, but Police officers."
Patty and Doug find comfort in the dozens of letters they've been sent, many by people they've never met. They've also been sent gifts like blankets with photos of Peter, hand made prayer shawls and a keepsake box which features Patty's favorite picture of her son.
"I saw this picture on the top and he's pointing to the sky. And when I first saw it, I heard his voice in my head and he said, 'I've gone to the sky now, mom.' So that became my favorite picture of him. Inside [the box] are as many sympathy cards as I could fit in here. I've got another couple of boxes at home. I kept them all," Patty shared.
The letter are filled with words and messages the Jervings will come back to as they remember the son they raised.
"He was a tough kid. And that's part of what made him really great as a police officer too. He had a warrior spirit about him," Doug said. "When he decided that he was going to be a policeman, he did it with all his heart. He put everything he had into it."
Doug is so proud of his son wanting to become a police officer, but he also admits it scared him.
"I always worried that my kids would end up going into the military or something like. Not that I don't respect the military, but I worry about all of them," Doug said. "You kind of hope that your own kids are never going to have to experience that kind of thing."
He recalls the feeling of wondering if he'd see his son again after a shift. Doug called that feeling "the worse struggle of all."
Patty said February 7th is a day they'll just "have to get through."
The Jervings said they plan to start the day at the cemetery visiting Peter's grave site with their six other kids and grandchildren. They'll also spend some time with their "blue" family at District 4, where Peter worked. After that, they'll spend time together at the family home reminiscing about the son and brother they love so deeply.
"Just being together, you know, will be good for us all," Patty said.
"That's what February 7th is going to be for all of our family, is just a chance to reflect. To realize that we've grown over this past year in a lot of ways. We've all grown and learned and we're coming to grips with who we are. Maybe a little better understanding of how to be compassionate towards others," Doug shared.
And while the Jervings are hesitant to call the day an anniversary, Doug said they'll find time to celebrate Peter's life.
"I'm looking at it as a celebration of life. To remember too. This isn't just about my son dying on February 7th. It's about the fact that he lived an amazing life, and we're celebrating his life. The joy we had being with him for 37 years, seeing him grow up, seeing the tough little kid turn into a very compassionate young man," Doug said.
"He died doing what he loved. That was his dream. And even though I miss him, he wouldn't have done anything different. If he could have come back and changed anything, he still would've done what he had to do," Patty said.