Like his hero, the Duke, trooper is known for riding to the rescue Ex-Marine likes to aid travelers in distress

December 24, 1996|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

There's a gold shield pinned to Maryland State Police Trooper Doug A. Cawman's uniform. What you can't see, though, is that his heart is the same color.

During almost seven years of patrolling Interstate 95 from just north of Baltimore to the Delaware state line, Cawman has taken on the to-the-rescue mantle of his hero, John Wayne.

He has changed more than 100 tires, rescued drivers in distress and even used a dab of Super Glue to help unlock a car -- deeds that would make even the Duke proud.

Such grunt work might send another trooper back to the cozy cruiser to radio for a tow truck. But Cawman said he spends 25 percent of his job hopping out of the olive-colored sedan, rolling up his sleeves and loosening lug nuts.

"I just love to see the joy and relief on people's faces," Cawman said yesterday, during a shift in which he stopped twice to help motorists on I-95. "I imagine myself on a stretch of road, and it's dark and I don't know where the next exit is. All of a sudden, a

trooper pulls up and offers to help.

"I imagine it's a great feeling."

Cawman, 45, is well known for his highway benevolence. His "atta boy" folder brims with letters from grateful motorists and includes a commendation from Gov. Parris N. Glendening for stopping a motorist in a high-speed chase.

His boss, state police Cpl. Robert Kerner of the Perryville barracks, says admiringly, "He's got a habit of doing stuff like this.

"He goes out of his way to help stranded motorists," Kerner said. "He seems to go further than most troopers."

Take the predicament of LaFrances B. Middleton of Philadelphia, who was stranded by a flat tire while traveling south on I-95 near the Maryland House in July 1995.

Told she would have to pay $70 for a tow to a nearby service station and another $120 for a new tire, Middleton panicked.

"I did not have that kind of money," she said.

Enter Cawman, who changed her tire -- for free.

"Your officer turned a bad situation into a pleasant day," Middleton wrote in a thank-you note.

On Nov. 21, Cawman helped a Columbia family in a near medical emergency.

After a deer leaped from the woods onto the family's minivan on I-95 near Aberdeen, and was beheaded in the accident, Michael Levine's daughter Katie, 3, "became hysterical," Levine said.

The toddler was "shaking so violently we were worried she was going into shock," he said.

Along came Cawman, who drove Katie, her twin sister, Megan, (( (who slept through the accident) and their mother, Ellen, to the Maryland House to warm up and calm down. Then Cawman drove Levine to get a cab -- after his police shift at 11 p.m.

"That was one of the nicest things that anyone has ever done for us -- stranger, friend or relative," Levine said yesterday. "He gave two hours of his time in the middle of the night so we could get to a car. He tried to cheer my daughters up by sounding his car's sirens and with the lights, and by the time we got back, my girls were in a good mood.

"For the condition that my daughter was in -- she was so traumatized -- I don't know what we would have done otherwise. I'll never forget it."

Cawman said he had never been offered a tip for his services -- a violation of state police guidelines -- until last week, when a Japanese motorist shook his hand and tried unsuccessfully to press something extra into his palm.

"I told him, 'It was my pleasure to help you,' " he said. "Money is such an impersonal thing. I help people because it's a reflection on the state police, and I want people to enjoy driving through Maryland. To accept money would diminish it."

Cawman said his father, David, the treasurer of Salem, N.J., taught him to smile often and offer help. "He was outgoing and an extrovert, and it just rubbed off on me," Cawman said. "Even today, when I catch a speeder, I tell them I'm going to give them a citation -- it's a nice way to say ticket. 'Citation' makes them think they're getting something good."

A Marine for 20 years, Cawman enlisted at age 18, trained at Parris Island, S.C., and served a tour of duty in Vietnam.

He then was assigned to embassy duty in Paris and later was a Marine recruiter.

Once as a trooper, Cawman helped a couple of stranded Marines whose car had overturned on I-95.

He took them to his home in Perry Hall so they could call the base and alert their sergeant.

"If you can send one person down the highway and make them believe that this is what the Maryland State Police is all about, it's worth it," he said.

Pub Date: 12/24/96

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