Christmas is a special time for us all. We enjoy having family close, great parties and wonderful gifts under the trees that adorn our homes.
As I sit here and write this I cannot help but feel solemn in my reflections regarding this time of year, for if you could magically be transported around this wonderful nation of ours, you would find many a seat vacant at the dinner tables during this holiday season. Chairs that will never again be filled by a son or daughter, a husband a wife or father.
Those left at the table will never celebrate with those they loved. Children will never see a dad or mom in the stands at a sporting event, a recital or a play. Some will never have the joy of celebrating the accomplishments of their children or grandchildren. They will never again hold the one they have exchanged the vows of marriage with or had begun to plan a life together as husband or wife.
This is the cost of our liberty and security within our homes and we should never forget its true cost, for if we do our values as a people and the freedom we enjoy will surely be lost also.
As a nation, we have always mourned the loss of those that have laid down their lives in defense of our nation and our values, while respecting their sacrifices.
Three have been close to 7,000 military deaths since the inception of the War on Terror, which began in earnest on October 7, 2001. These young men and women gave their lives throughout Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, Operation Inherent Reserve and Operation Freedom Sentinel and their sacrifices should never be forgotten.
We owe these men and women so much, as well as those that stepped forward during all of the other conflicts since the inception of our nation.
Another group of wonderful men and women who serve our country daily are our First Responders. Law enforcement and fire/rescue personnel are just some of those that have given their lives in service to this great nation and its residents.
Law enforcement professionals in our nation have been under fierce and senseless attacks over the last decade. I have no rational explanation for this lawlessness and lack of respect which has weaved its way into the fabric of our society. This from a nation that has always held the rule of law in such high regard.
As I sit here and write this column, 117 male and 10 female officers have lost their lives protecting our citizens and their property. This loss of lives has been in small communities as well as larger ones. The carnage continues in cities and states which have some of the most stringent gun laws within the nation, but to no avail.
The loss of civilian lives has also been a stain on this nation, as mass shootings have continued to dominate our headlines as well as other atrocious crimes against the youngest and some of the most elderly of our citizens.
We mourn all of this senseless violence and we owe those that wear the badge a heartfelt thank you for their sacrifices and those of their families for the tragic loss of those that have done so much for our citizens, both here on Marco Island and across the nation.
The men and women of the fire/rescue service also should be close to our hearts during this holiday season. Their sacrifices should also be kept in mind as we sit in our homes during this season of joy and love, warm and secure in knowing they will be there when the need arises.
This year we have seen 57 of these proud men and women make the ultimate sacrifice in protecting our lives and properties. From large city departments such as New York to our smaller volunteer departments such as the Buchanan Valley Volunteer Department in Orrtana, Pennsylvania, they made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their communities.
From the east coast to the west coast these men and women serve with pride and distinction. They do so for the love of the job and the communities they serve.
When we finish unwrapping the presents from under the tree this year we should look upward and thank those that have provided the most important of gifts through their service to the nation and the communities we reside in.
The names of Tara O’Sullivan a Sacramento Police Officer, Master Sergeant Jose Gonzalez of the United States Army in Afghanistan and Lt. Jason Menard of the Worcester Fire Department in Massachusetts all represent the finest of our nation.
They gave the ultimate sacrifice in carrying out their duties, wherever and whatever it took. O’Sullivan in response to a domestic dispute, Master Sergeant Gonzalez in combat operations in Afghanistan fighting terrorism, 7,723 miles from our shores and Lt. Menard who heroically saved members of his crew and then returned to continue to search for other survivors, but tragically lost his own life in service to others.
These are the heroes we owe so much to. They are the men and women who will not be sitting with family, loved ones and friends on this holiday. Remember them, respect the gifts they give us every hour of every day through their service and sacrifice.