Three-year-old Cohen Chastain showed a small Georgia community — and the rest of the world — how just a little bit of toddler-sized positivity can ease the pain of tragedy and restore hope.
Cohen, a preschooler from Rockmart, Georgia, stood at attention for more than two hours for a funeral procession honoring a fallen Polk County officer last month.
The Polk County police force lost one of its own — for the first time in its history — when Detective Kristen Hearne was shot and killed while investigating a stolen vehicle. Cohen took it upon himself to pay his respects to the mother and officer.
According to Cohen's mother, Mandy Chastain, he had never met Detective Hearne but a local church ceremony, prior to the processional, got Cohen wondering what he could do to show his support.
"It was all his idea" Chastain told TODAY. "He had a lot of questions with all the police officers at church that day and I decided I should just tell him the truth. He was really heartbroken when I explained what had happened and he wanted to wear a police uniform and stand for the procession."
Last week, the Floyd County sheriff’s office — where Hearne started her career in law enforcement — recognized Cohen for his thoughtful act.
The sheriff called Cohen down to Aragon’s city hall where a special surprise waited for him.
Cohen, escorted by his parents, arrived to a crowd of officers who wanted to thank him for his heartfelt gesture. Detective Hearne’s family — including her young son Isaac — also gathered to meet the police chief in training. Hearne’s husband, Lt. Matt Hearne, serves with the Aragon Police Department.
The group spent the morning teaching the two boys — both 3 years old — about life as a police officer including, most importantly, how to play with the police car’s lights and sirens.
"He's just a regular 3-year-old little boy with a love for law enforcement," Chastain said of Cohen. "We can hardly get him to stand in one spot for 60 seconds, much less two hours. When I tell him that people are talking about what he did, he just smiles. He doesn't feel like he's done anything really major."
Floyd County named Cohen an honorary deputy and supplied him with everything a good deputy needs. The 3-year-old, dressed in a padded muscle police costume, received a backpack full of goodies, his own police badge and a custom-built Power Wheels Police SUV. The official vehicle showed the Floyd County Sheriff’s insignia and a “Deputy Cohen” sticker on the front windshield.
At the day’s end, Cohen shared his thanks by standing tall and reciting the entire Pledge of Allegiance.
"It's just a really hard time right now ... our community is still struggling," said Chastain. "We're just so proud that Cohen was able to shine a little bit of light during a dark time."