Weekly Columns

During this season, we’re fortunate to have time to reflect on the past year and look ahead for what’s to come. That can stir lots of feelings, but appreciation and excitement are usually right at the top of the list. 

We’re blessed. Even amid trying times, we get to call a wonderful state and great country home with freedoms and opportunities that are the envy of the world.

That’s a lot to be grateful for.

The holidays seem to bring those truths into even greater focus as many of us are surrounded by family and friends, have the ability to take a break from daily routines and become even more aware of the things that matter most.

Yet it’s also important to recognize that some of our loved ones and neighbors don’t get to experience these special moments in quite the same way.

These ordinary citizens don’t seek out recognition or need the applause of others for doing what they’re passionate about and trained in. They just show up day in and day out, shift after shift, doing their jobs even when the rest of the world seems to stand still. 

Our first responders, servicemembers, health care workers and other essential personnel across various sectors often sacrifice their own convenience at this festive time of the year. 

We might or might not notice when a nurse in our extended family misses out on the annual gathering or feel the void when a neighbor’s parent, child or sibling who is deployed overseas is absent on Christmas morning. But the reality is this happens in communities throughout our state and across the nation more often than we realize. 

Sometimes it means just a brief interruption that is possible to accept and see past. But for others, the separation may be frequent, prolonged or even permanent. 

This sacrifice is to be applauded. It gives the rest of us great comfort to know that, if disaster strikes or a truly urgent need arises, our fellow citizens are prepared to help even when that means missing out on or putting off a celebration that has been weeks or months in the making.  

Sadly, for those families who have lost loved ones in the line of duty, their holidays are never the same.

This is the case for two more Arkansas families this Christmas. Stuttgart Police Sergeant Donald Scoby and Benton County Detective Paul Newell both perished in recent weeks while performing their duty to protect and serve their communities.

That means this holiday season will feature painful changes to family traditions and episodes of joy and grief mixed together as they mourn and remember these men.

Christmas, New Year’s and other holiday observances that mark this season truly are a time for joy. This year, as we gather together with our family and friends to take in all the wonder and thrills, I hope all Arkansans will join me in pausing to remember and express the gratitude we feel for the holiday heroes sacrificing in ways large and small. 

They represent the best of us and we are proud to call them our loved ones and fellow Arkansans.