On TV recently there have been stories of children being taken to the homeland of one parent and the homeland government protecting that parent.

The parent left behind has no recourse but to fight it in court, which can take years. Such a situation robs the parent of precious time with his/her children during their youth, time that can never be recovered. Except for losing a child to death, I can’t think of a more tragic situation involving a parent and child.

I dealt with one of these horrific incidents when I patrolled in northern Piscataquis County. An extremely concerned man came to my home one day, and I sat and listened while he told me his story.

He had married a girl from the Orient and brought her to northern Maine, which was something she had said that she desperately wanted. They lived locally and had two children, both of whom were younger than 5 years old.

As time went on, the marriage soured, and she left her husband and the children. She had some family in the Los Angeles area and went there to live. A lot of time passed before the man heard from her, but all of a sudden she appeared and wanted to spend a couple of days with her children.

The father had no reason to be concerned and let the children go with their mom. The next day, when they were expected to return, they didn’t. The itinerary that the mother had given the father didn’t check out, and it was suddenly obvious the children had been taken.

The father gave me all the information that he had, and I set off to try to find them. I was able to determine they had left on a flight back to L.A. So far so good. I had names of some of her relatives in the L.A. area but not much more.

I contacted the Los Angeles Police Department and was put in touch with two detectives who exclusively worked missing persons cases. These men had considerable knowledge of the area and the people, and I was highly impressed with their expertise.

But that did nothing to get the children back. I gave the detectives everything that I had for information which, to me, seemed rather skimpy in light of the fact that they were trying to find three people in a city of millions.

I kept in close contact with the father and let him know what had been done. We both knew it was a race against time to catch them before they got on a plane and headed to the Orient.

If that happened, the father knew he would probably never again see his children. He was devastated and heartbroken. I tried my best to keep his hopes up, and I reminded him that he had the support of his family in Greenville. But the situation was clearly dire.

The whole case rested on those two detectives with the Los Angeles Police. One day went by, then two. The detectives told me that all flights out of L.A. were being monitored, and they were sure the mother and the two children were still in L.A. They would keep working the case.

Then the call came. The two detectives had found them. I was flabbergasted and elated. I had gotten close to the father while working the case and could sense his emotions. And I can tell you that it was painful to see how much he loved his children and know that he might never see them again.

Finally, I got to give him the news of his lifetime. I could actually see the burden lift from his body when he found out his children were safe and in the custody of the police.

The mother had been arrested. The father called the L.A. police and spoke with his children. I will never forget hearing him tell them that he was on his way to get them and how much he loved them. The father took off so fast to get to the airport, I would not have dared to run radar that day between Greenville and Bangor.

It was a wonderful ending; The children were safe and were going to be brought back home.

I wrote this story because I recently learned that former L.A. Police Chief Daryl Gates had passed away. I was so impressed with the two detectives, the work they did and how quickly they did it, that I wrote a thank-you letter to them and to Chief Gates for their professionalism and dedication.

I got a letter in return from Chief Gates that I keep in my scrapbook. I was sad to see that he had passed away. But he certainly had a lot of which to be proud.

Just another day in the life.

Mark Nickerson is a retired Maine State Police Trooper. The 28-year veteran lives in Unity. The award-winning columnist may be reached at menick@uninet.net.