Bobby Gunther Walsh Chats with Former State Police Trooper and Author Robert F. Gerken

INTERVIEW BY BOBBY GUNTHER WALSH

Gunther: Joining me now is Bob Gerken…I’ve known Bob for a long time; he was a corporal in the Pennsylvania State Police and then retired from that after 25 years…did a bunch of other stuff including doing security for some pretty rich people that needed to have their homes and travel and everything else secure. He then went on to write In His Grip. Bob, how are you doing?

BG: I’m doing well, Gunther.

Gunther: So, tell me a little about your journey. First of all, 25 years in the State Police and you managed to survive that. I say that because I read some of these stories in here, including the one about where you stopped to rescue a guy and pulled him out of a car, and right after you got him out, the car exploded.  When I read all the stuff that you dealt with…dealing with drug dealers, and all that kind of crazy stuff,  it was an interesting but dangerous career…what made you choose it?

BG: Yes it was. I’m not sure…growing up, I never really thought about going into law enforcement and then one day I saw that they were recruiting. I was in college, and was not happy there…so the State Police were recruiting, and I thought, well let me look into that, and I did, and very soon after that I was on the State Police.

Gunther: I just saw a State Police Officer up North (from some friends of mine on Facebook) who just got an amputation after being shot in 2014 in some kind of a deal. They just amputated his leg; they couldn’t save it after eight years of working on it. Then I think about the police officers on Rt. 33… the state police troopers there… I guess most of the work is pretty mundane and dull, but boy when it gets exciting… all bets are off…huh?

BG: Absolutely. And that requires you to be on top of your game…

Gunther: Because you never know when…

BG: You never know…

Gunther: Right. You never know when. So you’re in the State Police for 25 years, retire, do some security work for people?

BG: An executive protection detail…was on that for three years.

Gunther: And then?

BG: I worked with local colleges helping them make their campuses more secure, as a consultant, and in one case as head of campus security.

Gunther: And then wrote a book…What made you decide to write a book?

BG: I’m not sure why I have always had that desire…

Gunther: You didn’t have a desire to be in the State Police, but you always had the desire to write a book…

BG: Right. I’m not sure where that came from, but after living kind of a crazy life… I didn’t take very good care of myself… and…

Gunther: Well, you did… you’re in very good shape… but tell folks… wait, back up, I know the details of this… he decided to do rodeo stuff… that’s where ya didn’t take care of yourself.

BG: Yeah… Exactly, that’s exactly right…

Gunther: It wasn’t as though you drank and smoke… or anything like that…

BG: You’re right… after I graduated from the academy, couple months later, I was called back to join the State Police Rodeo…Rodeo is something that’s been going on for many years, they no longer have that, but I was wondering why they were calling me back… Because I was never really a horse rider until I went to the academy, horses are a very important part of the State Police; they were the means of transportation back in 1905 when the department first started… so I went back to the Rodeo, and I was in the Equestrian Drill as well as the Motorcycle Drill… and perhaps, if I had stayed just with that, I would have survived a little bit better… but one day I was asked if I would be a trick rider on a horse… and I said ‘oh sure, I can do that’ and I went out to the corral, and got on this horse that took off faster than I think I ever even went in a car, got to the end… the guys were laughing and asked ‘where was your trick?’ and I said ‘staying in the saddle, that was my trick…’

Gunther: (LAUGHS)

BG: (laughs) – That was my trick… so, then I began learning some tricks… the thing I think that really caused me some damage was when we would come out of our saddle when the horse was flying across the field, do a vault back into the saddle, that pounding… and then they asked me to do a death drag… I should have known by that, this was foolish to say ‘yeah sure I can do that.’ Nonetheless (after I retired) that led to four back surgeries, both of my hips replaced and rotator cuff.

Gunther: But other than that…

BG: Other than that, I’m in good shape… but I now had the time to write a book…

Gunther: So that leads us to the book…

BG: Next question… what am I gonna write about… well, I have a strong faith, and I figured with all of the stories that I have heard over the years… as well as others from law enforcement, first responders, fire fighters and military…I thought, this is the direction I really should go in.

Gunther: And it’s basically a daily inspirational, right?

BG: Correct…

Gunther: 365 Days, a Daily Inspiration.

BG: Correct, a story to start it out with, followed by a Bible verse, and you see some sort of philosophy about the story and the Bible tied together.

Gunther: This is a book that is great for first responders…if you have someone who is a Police Officer in your family or a friend…this is a great book to buy for them… to give them to read on January 1, read that reading…

BG: That’s correct…however, a number of people have told me since they have gotten the book, that it meets a lot of needs… anybody who wants some source of strength, and encouragement…and that was my desire. In law enforcement there are a lot of difficult situations that you have, but everybody has trials in their life…and I think this book tells where you can gain some…

Gunther: Perspective and some faith…

BG: Yeah…and I think it’s important to know that it’s not specifically for any special denomination…it’s just more of a relationship with our creator…whether you’re Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Presbyterian…it really doesn’t matter…that’s not what it’s all about…

Gunther: It’s a book of faith, not of religion…  so you had 365 days to fill…you’re sitting there recovering from surgery, I guess is when you started to write this…

BG: Right…

Gunther: So you had to fill 365 days with 365 stories…did you have trouble coming up with them?

BG: No, I didn’t…I have to confess though, when I got about half way through, I thought boy I should have done a monthly, rather than a yearly…365 days is a long, long time…

Gunther: (laughs) | BG: (laughs)

BG: But I always had a story…and I got stories from other people, who were also involved in things that I was talking about…

Gunther: You didn’t run short of stories… but then you had to tie it to some sort of message…such as why did I go through that, what was God trying to tell me….or what…

BG: Well, from a spiritual perspective…I wanted to tie the story into something that would be meaningful and that would relate, and even that was not difficult…I always had something that I could say, that I felt was pertinent.

Gunther: This is a self-published book by the way, which is available at Amazon.com . . .when you order it, they print it and send it out to you. You can send it anywhere in the country, anywhere in the world…you can get this for a police officer, state police, fire fighter, EMS, military, active, veteran or as you said…for anybody…like you said, everybody has a cross, everybody’s got a story to tell, everybody’s got a battle / struggle they are going through…if not now, it’s coming; and it’s still something they carry around with them every day. So this book is a book to pick up and read each day…and this is a really great easy read. Some inspirational books can get too complicated, if you’re not into the Bible, or you don’t really know a lot, then it could just seem almost overwhelming…this keeps it pretty simple!

BG: Well…and that was my goal…

Gunther: Before we get too far…you better thank somebody…

BG: There are a lot of people to thank…

Gunther: You want to thank your wife (laughs)

BG: Certainly my wife…who was my editor in chief…as a former college English professor that was certainly a big help…Joe and Marcy Hackman, the former owners of Hackman’s Bookstore…they certainly were a big help; many others who helped with proof reading. My 14- year-old granddaughter who helped me with my website…

Gunther: (laughs) How funny is that?   What is the website, Bob?

BG: www.inhisgrip2571.net.

Gunther: That was your badge number, right?

BG: That’s correct. Some of these devotionals are already in a bookstore in Emmaus, called ‘On the Road to Emmaus’ and you can order it on Amazon.com.

Gunther: Do you have a favorite story in here or two? I have a couple questions about ones that I read, if you want to do that… but I didn’t know if you had one…that you thought ‘boy, I gotta tell him about this one.’

BG: An incident that’s very vivid in my mind…I was finishing up a 3 to 11 shift and I was tired, it was a long shift, I wanted to get home to my family…I got a call that there was an accident in a rural area of the township… and I proceeded down the road, around the curve and saw a car smashed up against the tree. I jumped out, ran up, and at this time the car was engulfed in flames…there really was not anything I could do, even going back for a fire extinguisher wouldn’t have helped at this point…as I looked into the car, the operator…looked like a young male…was sitting there, which appeared like his hands were still on the steering wheel…but when I looked closer… both of his hands had been burned off. That’s a memory that I have till this day, and that happened a long time ago. And I thought, as I was driving home that night: whose father, whose son, whose husband could this be? And where were they now? Where were they going? That’s a question that we all have to ask…where are we going next?

Gunther: Because every one of us is driving down that road or doing our life expecting that we have the next moment, the next second and we may not have that at all…

BG: This devotion also has some funny things in it…I had to break that up once in a while…I can relate one quick story here…that a good friend of mine that I worked with, Ed Long, who is probably listening to your show this morning… we had a warrant for, a search warrant for a residence… in a row home – a duplex, and so we went out, knocked on the door, no response, knocked again, identified ourselves, smashed the door down… and there was an elderly woman on the other side of the door just shaking…and I looked at her and I said ‘Where’s Jake?’ And she said… ‘he lives next door.’

Gunther: Oh no…

BG: Crashed the wrong door…It was funny to us at the time…but I’m sure it wasn’t for her!

Gunther: Not to her… yeah…so this 365 day devotional, again for first responders, those in law enforcement, those who know and care about them, but for any kind of first responder…police, fire, EMS, veterans, active military, but as Bob indicated really everybody has got something that they have been through, that maybe they need help getting through, and this book has the daily devotional. The stories are really an easy read, and then it has a Bible passage behind it and a sort of a wrap up at the bottom…  it’s a great book! The website is www.inhisgrip2571.net, that’s Bob’s badge number… so www.inhisgrip2571.net. The book is available there, and you can order it right there, or order it at Amazon.comIn His Grip by Robert F. Gerken.  Bob…I hope the book is a success!

BG: Thank you Gunther!