Lighting the Tree, Virtually, and Recognizing Some Everyday Heroes

To stay safe during COVID, we took our tree lighting virtual on Thursday.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen, including all of our special guests, especially our high school faculty singers, the Clauses, and local nurse Deanna Hebner, who flipped the switch with her two children. South Milwaukee’s MidKoast Entertainment, LLC handled AV — well done!

Here is the Facebook Live video …

Check out my remarks here. From them …

We’re starting a new tradition at this year’s tree lighting … choosing someone from the community to help us flip the switch. This year, we decided to honor someone who has stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We had a number of deserving nominees … and this evening, I want to send a special thank you to nurses. These are some of the real heroes during the pandemic. 

I thank our public health nurses and all of our public health professionals with the City of South Milwaukee — in communities everywhere — who have stepped up in so many ways during the pandemic to try and slow the spread of this virus. 

I thank school nurses, and nurses at our clinics and doctors’ offices. And I thank those at our hospitals. They are on the front lines of patient care, and they are doing amazing things amid incredibly challenging times. 

In the 1850s, Florence Nightengale, maybe the most famous of nurses in history, was called a “ministering angel” for her work in field hospitals during the Crimean War. 

One nurse was quoted as saying, “We have the opportunity to heal the heart, mind, soul and body of our patients, their families and ourselves. They may not remember your name but they will never forget the way you made them feel.”

This has also been said of nurses … “The definition of a nurse: To go above and beyond the call of duty. The first to work and the last to leave. The heart and soul of caring … who will pass through your life for a minute and impact it for an eternity.”

That is true now, more than ever, during COVID, where nurses are often leading the way in treating the sickest of the sick with the virus … putting in the hard, long hours to bring people back to health … often in their darkest hours … putting their own lives at risk … and often in full PPE.

And these days, those job descriptions are being expanded … as nurses now find themselves as a lifeline between hospital-bound patients and their families, perhaps connected through video chat … and are often there for patients in their final moments as too many people pass away from this terrible illness. 

All of this … and then nurses go home to their families. 

At today’s tree lighting, we honor nurses … nurses like Deanna Hebner. Deanna — a South Milwaukee resident, wife, mom and Cub Scout leader — is the head nurse at Ascension’s Franklin hospital.

In nominating her for this, Deanna’s mother-in-law noted …

“During months of working extra hours … she is exhausted but continues to go to work to save others. Deanna deserves to bring a little light in this darkness by lighting the tree. If selected I hope she will be able to include her two children in the lighting because of all the things that she does, her children always come first.”

When I spoke to Deanna yesterday she shared a little about what she and countless other nurses have faced during the pandemic. Her story is inspiring, even though she’d never admit it. She also knows it’s not just her story. It’s the story of countless nurses everywhere … and their passion for helping others, their courage amid sometimes impossible circumstances and their relentless, enduring hope through all of it.

“There are so many nurses that have gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic,” she told me. “I am really proud of my profession.”

We all should be this holiday season, and we thank Deanna and all nurses today at our tree lighting. 

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