One of the greatest signs of humility was shown to me — over and over again — by the families of our fallen service members. One of the toughest parts of being governor was attending military funerals. It is also one of the most important roles I had as chief executive of the state and commander-in-chief of the Wisconsin National Guard.
Early in 2011, I met the family of Army First Lt. Daren M. Hidalgo. He died on Feb. 11, 2011, in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using a makeshift bomb.
I met with the Hidalgo family privately before the funeral. Daren’s father, Jorge, is a 1981 graduate of West Point. Daren’s mother, Andrea, gave birth to him at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. His brothers also served — Jared in the Marine Corps and Miles in the Army.
Miles flew back from Afghanistan, where he, too, was deployed, and escorted his younger brother’s casket home from Dover Air
Force Base. He and his brother Daren both graduated from West Point like their father.
Daren served his first deployment in Afghanistan and was a platoon commander in the Stryker Cavalry Regiment. Ironically, he was wounded in an roadside bomb attack two weeks before his death, but he didn’t want to leave his soldiers to get treatment for his injuries. Had he done so, he could have missed the attack and survived to return home.
Instead of being bitter, his family talked lovingly about their son and brother. They were so proud of his service to his country and his devotion to his fellow soldiers.
I was deeply moved when they told me of their support and prayers for me. It was during the time when protesters occupied my state Capitol. They were worried about me. I was blown away.
Here, in their darkest hour, they were thinking of others. It was an unbelievably humbling moment because I had come to minister to them, and they were ministering to me.
I asked to pray (as I did at each of the meetings of families of our fallen) with them. We said a prayer of thanksgiving for their remarkable son and brother. And we asked for God’s grace to surround them that day — and in the days to come.
The Hidalgo family inspired me that day — as they have many times since then. Their commitment to God and country was shown in how they responded to their obvious crisis.
My wife, Tonette, and I were at a Christmas concert on Sunday night. When Mark Schultz played his song “A Different Kind of
Christmas,” I thought of the Hidalgos and the other military families I had met over the years.
Part of the lyrics to Mr. Schultz’s song are:
“In the evening fires glow
Dancing underneath the mistletoe
A letter left from Santa Claus
Won’t be the same this year in this house because
“There’s one less place set at the table
One less gift under the tree
And a brand new way to take their place inside of me
I’m unwrapping all these memories
Fighting back the tears
It’s just a different kind of Christmas this year
“There’s voices in the driveway
Families right outside the door
And we’ll try to make this Christmas like the ones we’ve had before
As we gather round the table, I see joy on every face
And I realize what’s still alive is the legacy you made”
Without a doubt, the family of Daren M. Hidalgo will miss him dearly again this Christmas. He was a caring son, a wonderful brother, and a devoted friend. I am certain they continue to honor his legacy by living life to the fullest daily.
The holidays are filled with joy. There are gifts, parties, carols, food and good cheer. For some, however, it is a painful season. The loss of a loved one in the past year — or many years ago — makes celebrating more difficult. Hopefully, reflecting on the legacy of that special loved one will provide comfort this Christmas.
Most of all, it is important to remember the remarkable gift that God gave to the world on Christmas. Our Heavenly Father loved us so much that He gave us His one and only Son. He came not to condemn the world but to save it.
Despite the pain of losing a loved one, we can experience joy, hope, peace and love. God did not want heaven without us, so he brought his son to us. With His help, we know that someday we’ll be united with our loved ones in heaven, where we will live in God’s glory for eternity.
That is the best Christmas gift of all.
• Scott Walker is president of Young America’s Foundation and served as the 45th governor of Wisconsin from 2011 to 2019.