Last updated: July 17. 2013 1:25PM - 385 Views

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A column by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin

Joanne and I celebrated Joyful Night with West Virginians from throughout the state who traveled to Charleston to kick-off the holiday season. As we toured the capitol grounds to see the beautiful decorations, listen to musical selections and light the state’s Christmas trees, I asked visitors to pay special attention to a new tradition.

For the first time, the Governor’s Reception Room featured a 10-foot tree dedicated to honoring our military men and women. We asked folks to send in photos of their loved ones or friends who have served or are serving in the armed forces. The response was overwhelming. And in just a couple of weeks, we received hundreds of photos.

Some photos came from families who’d lost loved ones in combat, some from families with loved ones serving overseas, and others were from West Virginians who simply wanted to pay tribute to our state’s proud tradition of military service. Each photo had a story of its own. But together, they represent strength, courage, honor and selfless service.

This year’s military recognition tree is a reminder of the sacrifices made by our military men and women. It is a reminder of the families who wait patiently at home. And it is a reminder of the many West Virginians who have served or are serving our country, at home and abroad.

Joanne and I know the holidays can be tough, especially for those who are serving overseas-some on a second or third deployment. So as the holidays approach, we ask you to remember the men and women who work hard to defend our freedom and protect us. Please keep them and their families in your thoughts and prayers, always.

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