As Nebraskans prepare to celebrate the holidays with family and friends, I want to acknowledge a special group of families in our state.
More than 1,000 Nebraska National Guard personnel are among those serving our nation this Christmas overseas. I ask Nebraskans to please keep all of those serving in the armed forces in their thoughts this holiday season, in particular the families of soldiers with the 192nd Military Police Detachment providing security in Iraq, the 67th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade serving in Iraq, and Charlie company of the 2-135th General Support Aviation Battalion who will soon be providing aerial evacuation and medical attention for troops in Iraq.
Nebraska units are also serving in Afghanistan, including the 1-134th Cavalry, the 623rd Engineer Company, and the 402nd Military Police Battalion is currently completing mission training stateside before deploying to Afghanistan.
Other Guard units will be departing in the New Year, which makes this one of the busiest periods for our Guard personnel since the start of the war. Their professionalism and their dedication to serving our state and nation are truly admirable. I hope Nebraskans will keep our Guard personnel and their families in mind as we spend time with loved ones.
This is a time of year when many look forward to their favorite family traditions and the opportunity to spend time with friends.
Over the past several years, our family traditions have grown to include opportunities to visit with some of the many state employees who contribute to making Nebraska the best place to live. For the last two years, Sally and I have also hosted a public open house at the Governor's Residence, which this year is decorated for Christmas with the writings of Nebraska author Willa Cather.
One event we look forward to each year is the lighting of the State Capitol Christmas tree in the Rotunda. Each year on a Sunday afternoon in early December, we gather in the State Capitol Rotunda to hear carols sung by area students. Sally and I invite the young children in the audience to join us in helping light the tree that stands nearly 30 feet tall in the soaring architecture of the Rotunda.
It is a tradition that spans more than 60 years and echoes a tradition that began during World War II when military personnel and their families stationed at the former Lincoln Air Base reached out to welcome and embrace these families by hosting Sunday services on the steps of the State Capitol.
Nebraskans are very giving and caring people. Their willingness to give back and help others in need is strong in our state. There are countless examples of kindness taking place in schools, offices and homes across our state at this time of year. To all of those who have taken time to make the holiday season brighter for someone else in our state, thank you for your generosity.
Merry Christmas, happy holidays and best wishes for a great 2011.