- - Thursday, December 18, 2014

Over the past few months, it has been a great opportunity to regularly write about the important public policy issues facing our country. From making sure that every child has the chance to find the best school – whether public or private – to arguing for bold tax reform in our states, I have enjoyed every minute of it.

But, today I want to take a break from all of that.

With one week until Christmas, it got me thinking. Not only do I need to quickly finish up my shopping, but next week, I will get to spend my favorite time of year with the ones I love. Every year, my whole family gathers at my parents’ house on Christmas Day to enjoy a meal together, open presents together and simply spend time together.

To this day, I’m not sure how it actually happens – and I have helped plan an inauguration for a governor.

Almost 40 people pile into my mom and dad’s house. Many come in from hours away and some from across the country. But, without fail, every member of my family sits around the dinner table (or multiple tables) at the same time. We say grace and eat dinner as a family.

It would make my grandparents proud to know their kids are continuing the tradition that was started decades ago.

As I reminisced about past holidays that I have enjoyed, I realized that not everyone will get to spend this holiday season with their family. And that is what sparked this column.

This year, and every year, many people serving in our military miss Christmas dinner because they are stationed in a different part of the world. These are the people who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to defend the rights laid out in our U.S. Constitution and it should not go unnoticed.

First, I want to extend my sincere gratitude to all the courageous people who are currently serving our country and will be away from the family dinner table during the holidays. I also want to say thank you to our brave veterans that have missed Christmases, birthdays, Hanukkahs and Thanksgivings in the past.

The sacrifices you make are unparalleled. It is an amazing thing to put your country’s needs above all else, and I cannot thank you enough for defending the freedoms we hold so dear.

I also want to mention the families that have a brother, a daughter, a father or anyone missing from their dinner table this holiday season. For many, it won’t be the first gathering that there will be an empty chair at the table and it may not be the last.

We need to support these families and members of the military in every way possible. So, as you finish up your holiday shopping or grab the final necessities before the family comes over, take some time to think about those who will not be with their families this year.

Whether that is thanking a group of soldiers you see at the mall or donating to a local charity that supports members of the military, veterans and their families, it is important to honor the sacrifices they make.

Once again, thank you to all those who have served or are currently serving our country. We owe you a lifetime of gratitude and will be thinking of you this holiday season.

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