They keep us safe

Every life doesn’t get saved. Some homes and businesses go up in flames, and once in a while there is a mistake made. But when we feel threatened or in danger, it is the police officer or the firefighter who comes to our rescue – they keep us safe – here at home. But what about those who have fought and are fighting today in lands far away? How do we say thanks? If still living, we remember them on Veteran’s Day, but why not a little recognition on Memorial Day as well?

Memorial Day is just around the corner. Our police officers and firefighters will march in parades alongside our veterans and active military personnel. It is time to expand our prayers and thanks to those who are fighting in a foreign land, firefighters dressed in their fire-retardant gear, police officers wearing uniforms that include a holster and .357-magnum, as well as those who have died guarding and protecting us? In today’s world, the fight is not always overseas. Today many of our heroes are spending their time keeping us safe right here in our own communities.

Even when there are no known terrorists among us, the police officers and firefighters are here. When bad things happen we start to look over our shoulders and become a little cynical, a bit more suspicious and sometimes we even get scared. It seems that almost daily we hear or read about a firefighter or police officer who has lost his or her life just doing their job.

One would expect things would be different, safer, and more peaceful in a country such as ours, but peace and safety were not what those three women in Cleveland felt, or those who lost their homes and family members in West, Texas. The innocent bystanders in Boston did not feel safe as the homemade bombs shattered their sense of happiness and celebration. These incidents left many of us remembering the horrible acts of violence that have taken place in a country where freedom is too often taken for granted.

Whether in Texas, Massachusetts or Ohio, the first responders who put their lives in danger do so with the knowledge of protecting the innocents. They aren’t in Afghanistan, or veterans of World War II, they are men and women who are too frequently taken for granted right here at home. Every day these heroes put on their uniforms and go about the business of just doing their jobs; and too often, they are fighting a war right on our own city streets.

It is not my intent to take away from the many who have died for our country, nor do I want to diminish the earned respect for those who have fought and are fighting today – but I believe if we are to once again know the feeling of safety when walking down our city streets, we need to give a little more thought and respect to those we call on and depend upon to keep us safe in our own back yards!

In 2012, 120 police officers died on the job. In 2011, 176 died. Over the past decade, 1,609 police officers have died on active duty. Another 16,000 officers, on average, are injured on the job every year.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 19 firefighters have died on the job this year, not including the firefighters who died recently in Texas. Last year, 83 firefighters died on the job including the two firefighters who were shot to death in Webster, N.Y., by a sniper who lured them to his house before setting it on fire. In the past decade 1,028 have died while fighting fires or traveling to fires, all in the name of public safety.

With the exception of our armed forces fighting in wars, what other occupations do you know of that include putting one’s life on the line for others?

When I met Richard, I didn’t think too much about the actual dangers of his being a police officer. But my understanding about the potential dangers he faced soon became crystal clear when I saw him buckle on his gun belt and holster his .357-magnum. It doesn’t have to be a big city like Boston, a small, industrialized Texas town, or Cleveland, Ohio; crime happens and our first responders face the dangers of the unknown daily.

We have much to be grateful for in this magnificent land of ours. The last Monday in May is Memorial Day; while we recognize, celebrate and honor those military warriors who have died for us, let us not forget those who are still doing their jobs today.

We need to thank all of the men and women who go to the front lines – whether a police officer, a firefighter, or a member of the military service – they are doing their job to keep us safe. They put on their uniform and leave their homes and families with good-bye hugs and kisses every day; they don’t know what they will face or if they will be coming back – just as the many military men and women do when they leave our shores to fight an even bigger battle.

Thanks to all of you who have and continue to keep us safe.

Have a great day.

Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to