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OPINION | MASTERSON ONLINE: A family in need

by Mike Masterson | January 8, 2022 at 4:04 a.m.


A widow and her four children from southern Arkansas still need our help and a compassionate federal agency after their relatively young father with a career in law enforcement died of natural causes.

Hundreds already have signed a petition centered in compassion and aimed at hopefully restoring death benefits denied to 42-year-old FBI special agent Micah Sexson, who died in April 2021, leaving behind grieving widow Courtney and their children of Texarkana.

Micah passed away just two months and 10 days short of becoming officially eligible for a customary monthly death benefit after 10 years, which many believe he'd earned over his career.

Many in our state, led largely by friends of the Sexson family, want to see the federal Office of Management and Budget make an exception in his case since he was so close to the federal qualifying date for benefits and his death from cancer was through no fault or choice of his own, as well as for other reasons.

Had Micah, a handsome father with kind eyes and dark brown hair, lived just 70 days longer, the question of eligibility would never have arisen. And there appears to be a valid extenuating circumstance in the appeal to restore his death benefits.

Micah's father Steve and others have written to Arkansas' six-person legislative contingent in D.C. to explain that when Micah was accepted to the FBI Academy, he was forced to wait three months to attend the agency's academy at Quantico through no fault of his own.

"The time lost in that delay, we believe, would be close to the same time frame in question today," he said. In other words, those days-in-waiting should be counted toward his period of service.

Before beginning his distinguished career with the FBI, Sexson was a former North Little Rock police officer for eight years. In the process he became a great friend to that department as a member of its Narcotics Unit and SWAT Team.

Many coworkers and friends left public messages on social media after his passing describing him as a highly capable, devoted, friendly and popular officer and person.

Sexson was diagnosed with ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) at the age of 33. He chose to attack the disease with everything in his power, undergoing radiation and a bone marrow transplant, followed by another round of radiation.

Since Micah's passing, Courtney and her children (three at home and the fourth set to begin college) badly need the benefits their father and husband deserved to receive.

Thus far, hundreds of voters and taxpayers have signed a petition and written to federal officeholders, our congressmen and the FBI, asking them for help in convincing the government office to reconsider its initial denial and allow the Sexsons to receive his benefit.

It seems well beyond obvious to me that if the elected and appointed federal government under the current administration is so anxious to freely lavish our tax money, lodging and transportation to those who come to this country illegally, the least our officials can do is provide the assistance for his wife and children that Micah legitimately earned protecting us.

We can let our congressional delegation know our feelings at the following addresses: Senators John Boozman (Suite 155) and Tom Cotton (Suite 235) at 1401 W. Capitol Ave., Little Rock, 72201. Rep. French Hill 1501 N. University Ave. Suite 630, Little Rock, 72207. Bruce Westerman, 202 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515. Rep. Steve Womack, 2412 Rayburn House Building, Washington, D.C. 20515. Rep. Rick Crawford, 2422 Rayburn House Building, Washington, D.C. 20515.

I'm all for helping the Sexson family as we enter 2022 because Micah worked hard to make sure they deserve that assistance. Let's treat them the same way decision-makers at the Office of Management and Budget want to be treated should, heaven forbid, they wind up in the same circumstance.

Adult rage at games

The universal problem of hostile and violent parents and fans at high school sporting events has reached a boiling point at the Cutter Morning Star and Mountain Pine schools that could make it difficult--perhaps even impossible--to find capable referees for their future athletic contests.

And who can blame these men and women in stripes for wanting to make their game calls as they see them without fear of verbal harassment or worse?

And what of some fans who in their rage become unruly and physically abusive to those officials and members of other teams?

It's not that much to ask. Shouldn't we all be able to attend a football or basketball game to cheer on our teenage son or daughter without fearing for our safety and their well-being?

Should a few loud-mouthed, combative people be allowed to taint or spoil an extracurricular event like a ballgame for others who also purchased a ticket? How about the players and those officiating? Of course not.

That was the point of a story by reporter Brandon Smith late last month that detailed the frustrations of Cutter Morning Star Superintendent Nancy Anderson, who's had her fill after two years of turmoil and anger at games between those Garland County schools.

I concede I was guilty of getting too loud and upset at athletic events when my children were participating decades ago. That made me one of those jerks in the crowd.

I'd become way too emotionally invested in how my team was being penalized by good and decent people trying to do an honest job of refereeing.

Anderson is right to put an end to fans who act in such juvenile and unacceptable ways. This behavior by some in the crowds goes too far. Cheer or disagree as an adult rather than someone in a state of arrested development at age 15.

After all, we can each do our best to control how we, as adults, behave at these supposedly enjoyable events. Well, we should be able to anyway, right?

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.


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