Up Close

BLUE DREAMS AND THE WARRIOR SPIRIT
By PO Valerie Stetz

NJ Department of Corrections Officer Joe Graf always dreamed of a career in law enforcement. At 38, his dream became a reality, and shortly thereafter, a major medical event roused a fighting spirit deep inside Officer Graf. His road ahead is marked with challenge and hurdles, but his indefatigable spirit and resolve will mark this warrior’s path to victory. Here’s Officer Graf’s story:

Officer Graf met his wife Kelly when he was 23 years old. The couple is celebrating their 13th year of marriage. Kelly had a daughter from a previous relationship, which simultaneously propelled Graf into a father and husband role. To support his family, Graf worked as a Special Police Officer in Lavalette, and repaired automobiles. At that time, he was endeavoring to get hired from Lavalette or another surrounding town, but his dream of becoming a police officer began to diminish. The newly weds purchased a home and were expecting a child. As everyone knows, the pay as an SPO is not enough to support a budding family, so Graf committed his concentration in the field of auto repair. Graf’s employment sufficiently supported his family, but he always felt he was missing his life’s passion, and with the encouragement of his family, he took the Civil Service exam. Five years later, in Jan. of 2017, he received a letter informing him that his passion for a career in law enforcement was about to become a reality. Soon thereafter, the New Jersey Department of Corrections hired Graf, and at 38, he began the arduous task of completing the Corrections Academy in Seagirt. He tells how reducing his annual income by $40,000.00 was a huge decision—one he doesn’t regret. The instructors quickly learned of Graf’s leadership ability, and chose him to be a squad leader in Bravo Platoon. He was a perfect shot at the range, and on June 27, 2017 he raised his right hand and was sworn in as a corrections officer. His life’s dream was finally a reality.

Graf was enjoying his first year on the job. But on Monday morning Sept. 25th, while sitting in his vehicle and waiting for his 7am shift to start, he became dizzy and nauseous. He exited his vehicle and realized he was going to pass out. He leaned on the car door and collapsed. Once he regained consciousness, he immediately returned to his vehicle and realized the right side of his face was bleeding. A fellow officer came to assist and called for medical help. Graf was rushed to Robert Wood Johnson in Hamilton, NJ. He went into cardiac distress several times, and was moved to an

ICU Unit. A CAT scan discovered Graf had a large mass on his brain. A subsequent MRI provided a more detailed report. Graf’s condition was caused by a 5 ½ inch tumor on the right side of his brain. Two days later, he was transferred to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, where a team of neurosurgeons were waiting. By Friday, the medical team had performed a biopsy to determine the type of tumor. This was the best option because of its location and size. Removing it would be too risky. Officer Graf was discharged and is currently taking several seizure medications and steroids to reduce brain swelling. The pathology report concluded the tumor is Cancer/Malignant. A plan for treatment was put into place. Graf will receive radiation five days a week for six weeks and chemo for 47 days. Joe will continue chemo for an additional 6-8 weeks and hopefully discontinue the seizure medication. The neurosurgeon’s plan is to shrink the tumor enough to monitor or remove it.

What impresses me the most about Officer Graf is how positive he is while facing much adversity. His will to fight is unmatched and commendable. He embodies the warrior spirit—the strong-willed and determined hero to overcome against all odds. As courageous as Graf is, he is also a humble man of a modest disposition.

“The amount of love and support we have received is truly the most amazing thing I have ever witnessed,” Graf said. “I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart.”

We at NJ Blue Now thank you, Officer Graf. We thank you for inspiring all of us to continue to fight and overcome all challenges we are facing in life. We wish you much success on your road ahead. We, and all of us in your Blue family, are rooting for your victory. God bless you!

Please help our brother Officer Graf and his family during this challenging time. You can donate directly on the GO FUND ME page at: www.gofundme.com/joe-grafs -medical-expenses.
As a new officer, Graf has only accumulated two sick days and two vacation days, let’s help ease the financial strain by supporting the Graf family. Donate now! Let’s show Officer Graf what the Brotherhood is all about!

Valerie A. Stetz (Velazquez) retired on accidental disability from the Jersey City Police Dept. She was injured in a radio car accident responding to a robbery in progress call. Valerie is a member of the NJ Police Honor Legion. She is the radio host for the popular Internet show “Blue World Uncensored” on DDV RADIO. She is also the Public Relations Manager for NJ Blue Now Magazine. Valerie is married, with a son and daughter.