"Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…" That is, except for the SWAT entry team making its silent, steady stealth approach in the unsuspecting barricaded suspect's house.

With apologies to Clement Moore, a happy ending for SWAT's version of "The Night Before Christmas" would be the entry team pouncing on, and securing, the surprised suspect without a struggle.

To all whose professions require them to "serve and protect" the rest of us, and be away from your families and loved ones, we salute you. Police, Fire, Medical, and especially our nation's Armed Forces who are serving far away in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. They all deserve our utmost gratitude and respect for their courage and sacrifice so the rest of us can live in safety and enjoy our holidays.

I identify with those who man the ramparts and watchtowers to protect us from evil and harm. 

I understand what it's like to be thousands of miles from home at age 18, in a combat zone, rifle slung, on ready alert, living in a tent. Mine happened to be Vietnam.  Before my time, it was Korea, and Japan and Europe in WWII. Today, it's Iraq and Afghanistan.

I understand how it feels having to work on Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year's, patrolling and responding to calls from people not enjoying their holidays with their families. I know how suddenly violently vicious holiday domestics become; I know what it's like to be in a life-and-death tug of war with a father determined to throw his infant from a second floor window.

I understand what it's like to be on call 24/7, 365 days a year as a member of SWAT. You hold your breath, but fully expect a SWAT callout interrupting your family revelry. If you're lucky, it won't be your team that gets called out, but invariably, some team will be. And you'll watch them on the TV news, and empathize with them—because it could have very easily been you instead. And next year, it probably will be you. 

When I retired, it felt strangely different not to be on call, on duty, or away during the holidays. After all, isn't this considered "normal" behavior for us and our families in the military, police, fire, and medical fields? All those many years in the Army, policing and SWAT-ting, you become accustomed to celebrating your holidays when you can. Sometimes, you get to spend them at home with your families. Sometimes, you have to create your own belated but very special holidays. But celebrate them you will, because you and your families so richly deserve to celebrate together. 

Our families are the true unsung heroes of our professions. While we serve and protect they hold down the home front, hoping and praying for our safe return. Wives and even children learn early on the true meaning of sacrifice, and we can take nothing in life—including life itself—for granted. 

This makes the families of loved ones in our professions truly special and magnificent. They are asked to sacrifice so much, not for themselves, and not only for their loved ones who serve, but also for this entire great nation of ours, the United States of America.

Allow me to share the following toast with all of you and your families. This very special toast during our annual SWAT Christmas party was offered by my good friend and fellow SWAT sergeant and Vietnam vet Tom Horan, who I had the privilege and honor of working with for many years. Tom's now (happily) retired, playing his favorite golf game, but his toast will live on forever. It goes something like this:

"We offer our thanks to God for keeping all of us and our families safe another year. And we pray that God will keep all of us and our families safe for another year.

"Merry Christmas and Happy New Year."

Stay Safe!!

Author

Robert O'Brien
Robert O'Brien

SWAT Sergeant (Ret.)

A member of the TREXPO Advisory Board, Sgt. Robert "Bob" O'Brien Cleveland SWAT Ret. is the founder of the R.J. O'Brien Group Ltd., a law enforcement training and consulting service that advises and trains a number of local, state, and federal SWAT teams.

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A member of the TREXPO Advisory Board, Sgt. Robert "Bob" O'Brien Cleveland SWAT Ret. is the founder of the R.J. O'Brien Group Ltd., a law enforcement training and consulting service that advises and trains a number of local, state, and federal SWAT teams.

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