This is the story of the unfed soldier. Of the sheltered Blue Mountains kid growing into experience, the officer in uniform crying on the verandah. This is a story of resilience.
Like so many of our Police Legatees, Senior Constable Margie Behan’s life doesn’t fit neatly into the boxes. It’s part of what makes our family so strong. Her history with us starts in 1998, when her husband, retired police officer Lance Behan, died, leaving her to raise the couple’s 8-month-old child Ethan.
Having always been aware of NSW Police Legacy in an abstract fashion, Margie’s involvement become personal when she started taking Ethan along to family events. Later there were the education grants, and later still the adventure camps. Ethan loved the camps, and even when Margie was working in New Zealand or elsewhere in Australia, she always got him there to join in the fun. “I just appreciate everything Legacy’s ever done,” she says, remembering the way somebody would always be at the airport to meet Ethan and welcome him into the group.
It was partly these experiences, and partly her own experience of growing through grief, that led her to consider joining the NSW Police Force in 2011. She felt there was a lot of unacknowledged suffering within the force, and she thought her own experiences could help her to help others. (At the very least she wanted more people to know about NSW Police Legacy, and we can’t commend her enough for that impulse).
She also felt that the only proper way to offer meaningful counselling to police officers was if she’d had some insider experience. So she signed up. To her surprise, she found the work so much more than a means to an end. She loves being a police officer. She’s in the early weeks of a 6-month rotation working alongside the detectives and is looking forward to the chance to get stuck into more complex cases.
Margie Behan with son Ethan at Bomana War Cemetery, PNG
As her Police Force journey has progressed, so too has her Police Legacy journey. It took her 17 years to attend a Police Legacy event just for herself (not for Ethan), and she found the collective experience of loss almost overwhelming. She describes sitting outside afterwards with tears streaming down her face. But she went back. She now feels a powerful sense of connection with the “genuine and lovely” people she has met through these events. “These ladies aren’t just my friends; they’re my family.”
And it was this sense of camaraderie that saw her sign up to the Police Legacy Kokoda Trek in 2019, a journey she undertook with Ethan, and with some of her closest legatee friends. “I wouldn’t have done it without my son,” she says. “His encouragement, support and belief in me is/was amazing. He is my world and my reason to keep on going, to push myself and keep trying when things get tough.” A problem with her celiac dietary requirements left her with nothing but two apples to eat on the first day after a 3am start, a flight, a truck ride, and a 15km hike. She went to bed that night “the unfed soldier,” privately wondering if she was going to have to pack it all in, but Ethan and others conspired to scrounge her food for the rest of the trek.
One thing she realised on the trek was that the widows she was walking with had already proved themselves through the way they lived their lives. “These ladies don’t need to learn resilience – they’ve all lost their husbands…. We got up in the mornings when our husbands had died and looked after our children. We kept going.”
It’s exactly this attitude and this strength that Margie has passed along to Ethan, who has spent several years working as a mechanic and is now contemplating a career in the Police Force, and it is exactly these attributes that we are sure will help them both in whatever comes next. We’re proud to be able to call them family.