FROM WALLINGFORD – Let’s celebrate our real heroes

As I finish my lunch and prepare to head out from work to spend  Christmas Eve with my kids, I will take time tonight, and tomorrow, to remember the families who cannot do the same.

I will be ever mindful, and teach my kids the same mindfulness, that it is because of them and their sacrifices, sometimes their total sacrifice, that allows us to have what we have.

A fragile relative peace in our lifetime and as much protection as we could hope to have.

Thank you to the real heroes (originally written and published in the Record Journal Sunday December 19, 2010).

FROM WALLINGFORD – Let’s celebrate our real heroes
by Jason Zandri

A week before Thanksgiving, my neighbor David Gessert called one afternoon and asked me if I was going to be around on Wednesday. He mentioned that he and the neighbors were going to be having a little get together for U.S. Army Sgt. Jeff Sirois who was to be returning to Wallingford after nearly a year in Afghanistan. They were planning to line up along the final leg his travel route and wave the American flag and hold up some signs to welcome him home.

I thanked him for thinking of me and I apologized for being unable to attend. I had recently started a new job which requires me to go into New York City on a daily basis, a change from my previous job which offered me some flexibility for working from home some of the time.

When I think about how much attention in general America pays to which celebrity is cheating on whom and how long Bristol Palin was going to last on “Dancing With the Stars” it made me even more upset that I couldn’t make it that day.

As I was thinking of a topic to put together for this final article of mine before Christmas my thoughts went back to this event, a simple little gesture by family, friends and neighbors to welcome home this member of our armed forces from his recent deployment overseas.

We as a nation simply don’t celebrate our true heroes nearly enough.

We parade the winning World Series team down the main boulevard of whichever city they hail from for ticker-tape parades (and more times than I’d like to admit, this is the Canyon of Heroes, the lower section Broadway in the Financial District of New York City).

I read a lot of news stories: nearly everything in the Record Journal and a volume more from newspapers across the country online. Over the course of the year I’ve read stories about someone who saved animals from a burning animal rescue or another who heard an elderly woman’s cries for help and called 911.

Many of these stories called these people “heroes”. I absolutely agree that the actions that these people have taken are positively heroic but that is the maximum extent of credit I am willing to give them. You show me a police officer, a firefighter, an EMT, a member of our armed forces that puts their uniform on, pats their children on the head, kisses their spouse good-bye, and who puts themselves in harm’s way in an effort to make us safe and to preserve our way of life here in America for all, and I will show you a real hero.

A message is making its way across Facebook – “This Christmas, when you’re eating your dinner, smiling and laughing, remember that in another house somewhere, there’s an empty chair where a Hero should be sitting. They gave up their life or are presently serving overseas so that you can sit with your family. So light a candle for the Heroes that did not make it home and for those who are still serving.”

To my neighbors, the Siroises, whose house I have walked by dozens of times in nicer weather when I go for my walks downtown, thank you.

Jeff – thank you for serving our country and for protecting it.

Jen – thank you for all the support that you offer to Jeff and to your family while he is away.

To the Sirois’ children – thank you for your sacrifice of time with your father.

When you take the time to stop and consider this on a finite and personal level, it gives so much more meaning to “land of the free and home of the brave.”

To all the heroes – thank you. May you have the best of holidays and may you return home safely.