After both Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the United States, the widespread devastation is clear. Luckily, many people were able to evacuate before both hurricanes left destruction behind them. Some, however, had no choice but to stay where conditions were the worst to help those who were unable to get out of the path of the storm. These individuals are our first responders, truly some of the bravest among us. Some of them have already lost their lives in their rescue efforts.

While these first responders are fighting a completely different fight, our first responders here in Wisconsin are just as dedicated to their profession. In April, Wisconsin lost an officer in a car crash. Anthony J. Borostowski was killed when his squad car left the roadway and struck a tree. Trooper Borostowski was a recipient of the Wisconsin State Patrol’s lifesaving award for performing CPR on a man, saving his life. He also enlisted in the Wisconsin Army National Guard and served our country overseas. Trooper Borostowski received several awards during his military service including the Combat Action Badge, the Humanitarian Service Medal and the Drill Sergeant’s Badge, among many others.

Devastating loss follows these tragedies. When we lose a first responder, we lose diligent public servants, their communities lose their protectors and their families lose their loved ones. These brave men and women will be deeply missed, and their lives will be remembered. This is another reminder of how much our men and women in blue sacrifice to serve their communities.

They get up every day to go work a job where they are not always appreciated. Their everyday routine involves putting on bullet proof vests and gun belts. When catastrophe hits, they don’t get to run away from the danger, they end up running right toward it to protect others. They don’t work a regular shift like much of working America — oftentimes their shift doesn’t end until crises cease.

While other Americans spend the holidays with their families, our men and women in uniform don’t always get to take the day off. They say goodbye to their families each day like everyone else, except they don’t know for sure if they will make it home.

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These sacrifices often go ignored and under appreciated. Law enforcement and first responders are truly some of the most honorable members of society. Their dedication to serve their communities regardless of the cost is one of the most admirable actions that one could take. Next time you come across a police officer, a firefighter, an EMT or any other public servant, I sincerely encourage you to thank them for their service and their sacrifice. Our first responders are of a different breed, constantly putting the needs of others above themselves.

I was blessed enough to be raised by two police officers. Growing up in a blue home made me a much stronger individual and helped me to understand the challenges that our communities face. My heroes were not some abstract people that I had never met — my heroes were the parents tucking me into bed every night. I spent much of my childhood witnessing the daily sacrifices that my parents made. There were times when my dad’s usual 12-hour shift would turn into a 17-hour shift.

I remember my dad walking through our front door one day covered in blood because he performed CPR on a woman who was in a particularly bad car crash. He came in, quickly showered, and then headed back to work.

My mom began law enforcement when it was not easy to be a female police officer. My mother was the first female Police Officer in the city of Green Lake, and the second in the county overall. She was often told that she didn’t have much authority on account of her being female, but she didn’t let that stop her from doing her job. In her time as a law enforcement officer, she started a community service program, started a bible study program and worked to rehabilitate inmates through an electronic monitoring program.

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After witnessing what it was like to wear the badge firsthand, I have a deep appreciation for those who are serving our communities today. We now live in a world in which wearing the badge can get you killed, which is a very sad and quite frankly, a disgusting reality.

For the past three years, around 150 police officers per year have been killed in the line of duty. If this trend continues, 150 officers will not make it home to their families this year. These statistics are not only sobering, but should be a constant reminder to thank and support our police officers and first responders.

A great majority of our men and women in uniform truly want to serve their communities and make them safer for us all. This is often sadly forgotten. As the recovery efforts for Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma continue, these brave men and women will be in my prayers.

Alesha Guenther ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in journalism and mass communications.