For Richmond County sheriff's Deputy David James, showing a first-year T-ball player how to catch a pop fly or run to first base is a priceless moment.
As coach of a youth baseball team in the Richmond County Recreation Department, Deputy James considers every chance to teach young players a bonus.
It's a miracle that he's around to teach them at all.
On March 2, 1990, the deputy was called to a subdivision off Belair Road, near Augusta Mall, where an armed robbery had been reported. As he was questioning three teenagers and a man about the incident, he was shot five times at close range before he could draw his weapon.
He was taken to Medical College of Georgia Hospital's trauma unit with three gunshot wounds to the back, one in the torso and a nearly fatal shot to the left eye. He spent two months in the hospital, undergoing occupational therapy and physical rehabilitation, before returning to work.
Deputy James considers himself a living testament to the power of prayer.
He lost his left eye and had to have a kidney transplant in 1993 because of complications from the shooting. His mother, Carol James, was the donor.
The memories of that horrendous night in 1990 came back in a rush to Deputy James on June 1 when Richmond County sheriff's Investigator Greg Meagher was shot in the face during a Burke County drug raid.
Tory Knight, 27, of Wadley, Ga., who was accused of shooting Investigator Meagher, died two days later as a result of the gunfire exchange with police. Deputy James' convicted shooter, Carl Lamont Brandon, who was 16 at the time, was sentenced to a 45-year prison sentence Oct. 5, 1990.
Deputy James said he still suffers some effects from the shooting. He is blind in his left eye and partially blind in his right.
"Other than that," he said, "I feel good."
He's a training specialist at the Richmond County Sheriff's Office training facility near Blythe. His experiences are vital in helping inexperienced deputies make the transition toward required duties of a sheriff's deputy.
To relax, Deputy James, 39, enjoys spending quality time with his wife, Kellie; stepsons Stephen, 16, and Justin, 14; and son Austin, 9, usually at a miniature golf course on Baston Road.
The 18-year officer said he knows he is a blessed man. But he does have one regret - that he was not wearing his bulletproof vest when he was shot. Now, all Richmond County sheriff's deputies are required to wear vests, but the protective gear was optional in 1990, he said.
"I tell them all: 'Be aware of your surroundings, no matter if you're at a traffic stop or a family argument. And don't get caught up in one thing. And always look around,'" he said.
OCCUPATION: Deputy, Richmond County Sheriff's Office
THE CHALLENGE: Despite losing some of his eyesight and requiring a kidney transplant, Deputy James has enjoyed a successful 18-year law-enforcement career.
FAMILY: Wife, Kellie; stepsons Stephen, 16, and Justin, 14; son Austin, 9.
Reach Timothy Cox at (706) 823-3217 or email@example.com.