Most of us are lucky to spend Thanksgiving gathered around the table with family, stuffing ourselves with roasted turkey, creamy mac and cheese, and that marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole. (And pie. Who can forget the pie?!).
But for countless families around the country whose livelihood is grounded in public safety or medical care, a seat at that table is often empty. Doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers, dispatchers, and other key employees work tirelessly on Thanksgiving and other holidays to serve our communities. These “Thanksgiving Heroes” frequently miss the joyous celebrations with loved ones.
My family is fortunate – our jobs don’t require holiday work. But for our friends, the Figlias, the holidays are frequently incomplete.
Bryanne (a classmate from my high school days) and her two children, Lily and Cooper, have endured several holidays – Thanksgiving included – without Tom, a devoted husband, father, and City of Beacon NY police officer. “You get used to going without them and it becomes more like a pleasant surprise if they're off,” Byranne speaks of such days.
While missing holidays is an unfortunate sacrifice of working in law enforcement, their family recognizes the tradeoff: an immense impact on the community. On their family’s first Mother’s Day, Tom had to miss celebrating to respond to a call about a possible jumper on a local bridge. He was able to grab the woman and get her to safety, preventing her from jumping off the bridge in front of her kids.
This isn’t the only reason the Figlias are deserving of a Thanksgiving Hero title. In a time of escalating police and civilian tensions, the Figlias are working to initiate conversations and promote peace. They were key players in organizing a “Unity in the Community” barbeque in their town this fall, an event designed to proactively bring people together to promote peace and safety for all. “I believe with all my heart that Beacon can be a place where people feel safe out on the street, in their uniforms and in their skin, and where everyone's loved ones come home at the end of the day,” described Bryanne.
This Thanksgiving, Tom may actually have the day off. If so, it’ll be the first time since their youngest child, Cooper (now 3) was born. But other law enforcement officers in Beacon – and nationwide – will still be working to protect and serve that day. I hope you’ll feel a little twinge of gratitude in your heart for them as you sit down to enjoy your meal that day.
Do you have a Thanksgiving Hero?
This holiday season, La Brea Bakery, the nation's top Artisan bread brand, is giving people the chance to say “Thank You” to their loved ones who have to work on Thanksgiving with a surprise gift – a Thanksgiving meal brought directly to their place of work. Through the Thanksgiving Heroes page, the company will be accepting nominations (through Sunday, November 20th) for the Thanksgiving Hero in people’s lives. On Thanksgiving Day, ten winners, selected from across the country, will be surprised and delighted with a Thanksgiving feast, courtesy of their family, friends and all of America who nominated.
To nominate your own Thanksgiving Hero, just visit the contest page between November 1st and 20th. If your hero is selected, you win a $500 gift card and all who nominates a hero, receives a free loaf of bread.