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Weekly Column: Giving Back

We are just a few weeks from Memorial Day, a federal holiday designated for honoring those who paid the ultimate sacrifice protecting our freedom. As we prepare to recognize the brave men and women in uniform, I am reminded just how fortunate we are for all those who answer the call to serve.

Our armed forces are the epitome of public servants, sacrificing everything to keep us free and safe. But there are many ways in which we give back to our communities to promote the greater good. For 30 years, the first week of May has been designated “Public Service Recognition Week” to recognize those who serve as federal, state, county and local government employees. These are the men and women that make sure our streets our safe, our veterans receive their benefits, our food is safe for consumption and our children are properly educated. Their work can be felt in nearly everything that we do.

Law enforcement officials and first responders also play a critical role in protecting our nation. They are on the front lines of crises and terror here at home. I recently cosponsored a resolution that continues our nation’s tradition of honoring our law enforcement annually. Our resolution designates May 10-16, 2015, as National Police Week, encouraging all Americans to show their appreciation for members of our law enforcement. Police officers put their lives on the line every day to pursue justice and keep our communities safe. I encourage you to take time to thank a law enforcement officer during National Police Week. 

Giving back doesn’t have to be a full time job. Many of us donate our time in addition to family, school and career commitments. In 2014, South Dakota ranked 7th in the nation for volunteerism. That includes those who serve in all-volunteer fire departments, which protect many of our communities in South Dakota. I myself belong to the Elks Club in Pierre, as well as the Pierre-Fort Pierre Exchange Club, both of which promote fellowship and volunteerism. I find the work these organizations do to be extremely rewarding.

I recently met with two high school students from South Dakota who were visiting Washington, D.C., to celebrate their national awards for community involvement. One created a program to make, collect and distribute holiday cards to active military men and women and veterans. The other raises money for the Children’s Miracle Network. Neither of these students were required to volunteer for school credit. Rather, they saw a need in their communities and stepped in to fill it. Their leadership and compassion at such a young age is truly inspiring.

Amidst some of the partisanship in Washington and violence going on in places like Baltimore, it’s easy to get discouraged in today’s world. This makes it as important as ever to remember the good work being done by millions of Americans every day in all shapes and forms. From our men and women in uniform to ordinary citizens who volunteer to better their communities, we are incredibly fortunate to be amidst so many dedicated public servants. I’m grateful for everyone working to keep our communities, our state, our country and this world a better place than they left it. 

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