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Texas Times: Reflections on 2014

 

As 2014 comes to a close, many will reflect on the year that was -- the losses and the low points, the highlights and the memories. Surely, 2014 saw its share of tragedy and hardship here in Texas. We sadly witnessed senseless acts of violence, such as the shooting at Fort Hood in April, which took the lives of three service members, wounded 16, and rocked a community still healing from the attack that occurred only five years ago. We experienced the fear and anxiety that came with the news of the nation’s first confirmed Ebola case in Dallas this September. And we witnessed tens of thousands of children make a treacherous trek to the United States often at the hands of vile smugglers and traffickers, some experiencing untold horrors along their journey.

But even among these heartbreaking stories were glimmers of light -- moments that brought encouragement to all of us. We saw this in the bravery of Sergeant First Class Danny Ferguson, who was fatally wounded in the shooting at Fort Hood. As the shooter opened fire at Fort Hood on April 2, Ferguson, who had served a combat tour in Iraq and had recently gotten home from another one in Afghanistan, used his body to prevent the shooter from entering a crowded room. He gave his life so that his fellow soldiers could keep theirs. He showed the kind of heroism that most people can’t even imagine -- the kind of heroism that defines our men and women in uniform.

We saw the joy and encouragement one person can bring to another when former President George W. Bush stopped by Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in the wake of the Ebola scare. He gave Amber Vinson, one of the nurses who contracted Ebola, a big hug and kiss on the forehead and thanked her for her service. The president walked the hospital halls, shaking hands with the nurses, doctors, and staff, thanking them for their hard work, and providing encouragement to a group of individuals whose critical service often goes unappreciated.

We also saw it in the acts of kindness carried out by groups like Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and my friend Bishop Daniel E. Flores who, through the generous contributions of the surrounding community, provided diapers, bottles, formula, clothes, and more for the babies and young children at the center of the humanitarian crisis that unfolded along our southern border this summer.

Indeed, there were countless Texans across the state this year who showed us the incredible impact that even the actions of one individual can have on so many lives. I’m reminded of a young man named Barrett Kenny, age 11, from Kingwood. Earlier this year, Barrett lost his best friend Landon Ahrendt to a rare form of soft-tissue cancer. Landon was only 10 when he lost his 18-month battle with the disease. Since kindergarten, Barrett and Landon had been inseparable, running fund-raising races together and going on each other’s family vacations. When Landon passed away, Barrett decided to set a goal for himself to honor his friend and raise money for fighting pediatric cancer. Barrett’s goal is to run 10 races a year in honor of Landon’s 10 years of life. In just a few short months, Barrett has run several races and already raised more than $10,000. He said, “Racing helps me stay on the bright side of things. Instead of being sad and mad I know I can do races that Landon would have liked to have done. I am racing for the both of us.”

As we gather with our loved ones this holiday season, may we be inspired by Texans like Barrett Kenny and the many like him, and find opportunities to go the extra mile for a friend or fellow Texan in need. From my family to yours, we wish you the happiest of holidays and God’s blessings of peace and good health in the New Year.

Sen. Cornyn serves on the Finance and Judiciary Committees. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security subcommittee.

 
 
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