The Fond du Lac Police Department gave one of its own a special send-off Wednesday. Officer James Darnell has been called to a year of active duty in Afghanistan with the Wisconsin National Guard. He leaves this month.
He'll be part of a Black Hawk helicopter crew that goes in to rescue wounded soldiers. It's a job he's proud to do, but it's hard to say goodbye.
"I tried to think for days of things I would say, and all I can say is thank you," Officer Darnell says.
Police officers, city workers, and community members lined up to give him hugs and shake his hand at the Fond Du Lac Police Department.
He knows his job in Afghanistan will be dangerous, but he says it's a duty he signed up for.
"It is difficult to leave, but if i don't go, then who will?" he asks. "It's my job. Who would I ask to take my place? I can't think of anybody. It's my responsibility."
He's leaving behind his wife and five young children.
"I will be thinking about my family, because that's what will give me the strength to carry on while I'm there," Officer Darnell says.
It's hard for the kids to understand why their dad won't be home for a year.
"They just know he has to go help people," says Officer Darnell's wife, Julie. "We will be able to Skype, email, and talk on the phone with him. He's been spending quality time with each of the kids leading up to his deployment. We're all proud of him for what he does. He loves us and his country."
The family will have a strong support system while he's away.
"I have a list a mile long of people who have volunteered to help with snow removal, cutting the lawn, helping with house repairs," Julie says. "We are very lucky."
Much of that help and support comes from fellow Fond du Lac Police Officers. That's why, while being recognized for his service, Officer Darnell put the focus on the police officers he works with every day.
"They may not be going to a foreign land, but day and night if you need them, they are there," he says. "Please say thank you to them too, because they are just as willing to lay down their lives."
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