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Capt. Don Fanelli (left) Sgt. Kevin Mimosa (right) are presented with "Distinguish Service" awards for their brilliant coordination & outstanding management of the Purple Heart Veterans participating in the Wounded Warrior Bicycle Ride.
Capt. Don Fanelli (left) Sgt. Kevin Mimosa (right) are presented with “Distinguish Service” awards for their brilliant coordination & outstanding management of the Purple Heart Veterans participating in the Wounded Warrior Bicycle Ride.

by John Donnelly…….

Dare say, the rants denigrating law-enforcement officers, along with the chants calling for their murder, are difficult for me to reconcile with; while watching and listening to accounts of their extraordinary bravery and steadfast courage under fire, as President Obama decorates them with the ‘Medal of Valor’ at the White House.

Just today, these ‘officers of the law’ appeared on TV as our president reverently draped this distinguished award around each of their necks. One mother was presented her son’s medal posthumously, after the president embraced and consoled her. Two of the thirteen officers are from the Greater Miami Area.

It’s been awhile since I’ve heard of, or been exposed to such acts of gallantry. I wonder how many of our school children were provided an opportunity to broaden their understanding, via experiencing this elegant and moving ceremony generated over the airwaves.

Children are gifts from our Creator. When it really wasn’t very fashionable, I initiated a Memorial Day Ceremony at the high school where I taught. It was birthed by my receiving a reprimand for wearing some of my medals pinned on a ‘jungle fatigue jacket’ I had worn and was wounded in as a Marine in Vietnam. I was teaching a history class and the subject matter we were discussing coincided with the upcoming Memorial Day Holiday. I was reprimanded for dressing in a way that might “frighten the students”.

My class was made up of 11th and 12th graders, one of my students was 21 years old. They were hardened young men classified as having serious learning and behavioral problems. The federal dollars allocated for their educations allowed them to stay enrolled in school until reaching their 21st birthday. By the way, they loved every aspect of that history class.

Anyway, the following year, and for next 20 years we took the Memorial Day Ceremony outside in front of our school for all the public to see; as students, teachers and staff were graciously encouraged to participate. We had F-16 and F-18 jets flying really low and directly over our gathering in a fixed wing formation. Servicemen and women would sometimes repel from helicopters before the students, there was a Marine Corps Color Guard, 21 Gun Salute, Student Enlistee Honor Guard, Marine Corps Music and Scholar-Athlete Awards and a Full Orchestra. Generals, high ranking public officials, politicians running for office, parents and visitors from every walk of life; scurried to get a seat in our newly constructed viewing stand, so as not to miss a moment of instruction.

It can get hot in South Florida at the end of May. Every year over 1,000 well-behaved, respectful and attentive students stood in the morning heat for over an hour, attending to the ceremonial depth of the experience provided for them. They listened to the speakers and felt the authenticity of this compelling event; as Combat Wounded & Decorated Veterans detailed the brutal facts of fighting and killing on the battlefield. Everyone in attendance expanded their knowledge base and increased their understanding of the upcoming holiday.

Forgive my digression…Please allow me to continue…

The valor of those law-enforcement officers decorated at the White House, prompted within me a recognition of the dedicated and committed service rendered by Sheriff Rick Ramsay, Captain Don Fanelli and Sergeant Kevin Mimosa. Along with the rest of Monroe County’s deputies, detectives and staff; their long-standing courage while on the firing line of life, facing a world riddled with unknowns, danger and violence; causes me to pause with a renewed sense of gratitude for the valiant service they provide.

Their selfless acts of valor often go unnoticed. Frequently their devotion to duty and overall goodness are taken for granted. As in any other profession on the face of the earth, there are corrupt and criminal elements within law-enforcement. Sheriff Ramsay has made it a habit to expeditiously rid us of such debris. Some individuals find it easy to bad mouth cops. On more than one occasion, I’ve witnessed these alleged cop haters, crying and pleading for police assistance, so they might avoid being harmed or murdered.

My understanding is that this is Law-Enforcement Appreciation Month. It’s also the time of year when we commemorate the military sacrifices of those Killed In Action, on our most hallowed of National Holiday’s. Linking the two together, Captain Don Fanelli and Sergeant Kevin Mimosa were recently honored at the Upper Keys Chamber of Commerce Luncheon, for their “Distinguished & Conspicuous Service”; as it relates to their brilliant management and logistical genius, manifested and delivered to the Purple Heart Veterans participating in the Wounded Warrior Bicycle Ride. These seriously wounded veterans have been granted the opportunity to safely navigated the length of the Florida Keys on their bicycles, for approximately the last 14 years. The enthusiastic and compassionate guidance offered by these esteemed Sheriff’s Department Officers during this ride, has inspired the catastrophically wounded veterans not to give up on life. Instead, they’ve chosen to make use of their GI Bill and continue with their rehabilitation.

On average, 22 veterans a day commit suicide. The dignity and respect shown to these Wounded Warriors by the deputies and citizens in direct contact with them, in many instances, has saved and renewed their lives. This is not an exaggerated nor melodramatic statement. As a Wounded Warrior, I’ve had the honor and privilege to ride with my Brothers and Sisters each year through Monroe County during this annual event. I’ve come to know these young men and women on a personal level. We’ve discussed our injuries, options and future; as we covered other matters pertaining to our assimilation back into civilian life. Words are insufficient in describing the transformative nature of an experience such as this. These veterans are forever impacted with hope and a can do attitude, resultant from events such as these.

Later on this month, Sherriff Rick Ramsay will be awarded a sculptured plaque, especially commissioned for his generous and magnanimous support of veterans and their families.

Through Sheriff Ramsay’s extraordinary leadership, exceptional coordination and insightful analysis; these Wounded Warriors were able to take part in a rehabilitative activity, whereby they experienced the essence, strength and healing ‘Power of Love’.

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