Everyone has one teacher, coach, or in this case, drill instructor who impacted our lives, giving us life lessons engrained forever.
Delray Beach Police Officer Christine Braswell, who passed away in an auto accident in the Florida Keys on April 8, was that person for so many people, no matter how old they are.
She was a drill instructor at the Law Enforcement Explorers Academy. This summer would have been her seventh year.
“It’s her SWAT shirt,” Hailey Fernandez says about the green, long sleeve shirt she’s wearing. “(Christine) gave it to us and said if we ever miss her to put it on. So it kind of fits right now.”
For one week a summer, Camp Tana Keetah turns into a military-style boot camp for young people, led by officers and deputies from local jurisdictions.
“We teach them, you never quit. You never give up,” says Rick Moore, who’s a police officer in the West Palm Beach Police Department. He’s also the senior drill instructor at the Explorers Academy.
He hired the sharpshooter from the Delray Beach Police Department.
“She came in and I said well, can you help change the explorer’s lives?" she says, 'Well, I don't know, I'll try.' I said, 'Yeah, we don't try here. We do.' And she just got this beautiful smile,” Moore recalls, fighting back tears.
There was Drill Instructor Braswell.
“At first, I was actually kind of scared of her,” Fernandez said.
And then there was Braswell.
“We went into the kitchen and she was laughing and she was eating cookies,” Hailey says.
I asked Rick, "What about the cookies?" He replied, smiling, "I just found out about this. That's not cool!"
“She forced me to eat all the cookies that were in the kitchen,” Fernandez said, also with a smile.
Moore adds, “Apparently what she'd do was be mean when the bosses came around but then when it was time for us to leave she was sneaking them cookies and being really friendly with them. That's Christine.”
In last year’s graduation video, she starred as Mrs. Incredible, with a matching, hands-on-the-hips pose.
“She talked a lot about when you’re woman, you have to basically perform better,” Fernandez said.
“I know behind the scenes she was like don’t let them males beat you,” Moore said. “We have to be better than they are, because they expect us to be less than they are.”
“She’s probably the strongest woman I know,” Fernandez said. “If not the strongest.”
There’s a brand new award this year, for the best female explorer. It’s called the D.I. Braswell Warrior Award.
Braswell will be laid to rest on April 23 at 3 p.m. at Atlantic High School in Delray Beach.