Nebraska offers a Thanksgiving of blessings

By Mike JohannsU.S. SenatorFamilies across the country are preparing to come together and break bread for another Thanksgiving. And while many gather around the dinner table in the face of great challenges, it’s often these challenges that help us remember our blessings. This Thanksgiving continues a long tradition of celebrating all that has been bestowed upon us, and perhaps for a brief moment, offers a respite from our struggles and tribulations. In Nebraska, despite some challenges, I believe we have a lot to be thankful for. Ag producers across the state have remained resilient in the midst of a debilitating drought and rash of wildfires. I am thankful for their resolve and the efforts of many firefighters, emergency personnel and local officials who have dedicated countless exhausting hours to helping those in need. This cooperation in times of hardship is inspiring. A sense of selflessness and community was also witnessed when tragedy struck Blue Hill, Neb., earlier this year. While we continue to keep those effected in our prayers, we can be thankful for the bravery of first responders and two citizen heroes, Ron Meyer and Phil Petr, who risked their own lives to save others. We will be forever grateful for their actions. When it comes to opening one’s heart, Dave and Laura Whelchel of Harrisburg, Neb., set a worthy example to follow. They’ve dedicated their lives to providing a safe and loving home for special needs children through adoption. The Whelchels have adopted four children and are about to welcome a fifth. I am thankful for this display of affection for children in trying situations. Of course, we would not be able to celebrate Thanksgiving without the dedication and sacrifice of the men and women in uniform. Across generations, our military heroes strive to preserve our freedom and liberty—something we as Americans can be thankful for every day. Earlier this year, I was honored to present two Nebraska veterans with Purple Hearts. Victor Mashbein was wounded twice during World War II and Air Force officer James “Scott” George sustained injuries during his service in Iraq. These men and many others sacrificed so much for our country and deserve our utmost appreciation. Some service members will be apart from their families this holiday season, and many were never able to come home. I want to express my deepest gratitude to our current and former military personnel and their families for their ongoing sacrifices so our way of life may endure. And I am proud and thankful to serve Nebraska in the Senate. It is a responsibility and a privilege I never take for granted. This holiday season, let us remember the many blessings in our lives and consider what we can do to give back. We can help the less fortunate by volunteering at local food or clothing drives, or by participating in programs like Toys for Tots. A simple word of thanks can go a long way to folks in your community who have dedicated a portion of their lives to service either as a civilian or in the Armed Forces. And finally, let’s take the time to truly enjoy the company of our families. They are an absolutely irreplaceable source of strength. We truly have a lot to be thankful for in America. I hope everyone has a very happy Thanksgiving and holiday season.