Thomas Trotter had driven the long, narrow road to his home thousands of times before, but little did he know that as he made the turn in his Ford truck onto his driveway this time, there would be about two dozen people clapping.
Along with the applause was something else unexpected — a decked out home strewn with red and green lights, along with a Santa Claus lawn ornament in full uniform. Not to mention candy cane lights lining the pavement to his home in Grant-Valkaria.
“First off I was kind of mad when I saw all these cars lining down the street,” Trotter said. “But then I came around and saw everything, and the kids started screaming in the car because they were excited. It was cool. It was exciting. It was a good feeling.”
In what has become something of a holiday tradition, Florida Power & Light for the last 15 years has hosted a holiday program honoring those who served in the military.
Each year volunteers decorate the home of a veteran with thousands of LED lights, solar-powered decorations, and other energy-efficient décor.
“FPL definitely gives back to the community,” said Michele Murrell, external affairs manager for Florida Power and Light. “What a perfect time of the year around the holiday season to give back to a local hero who has given so much and sacrificed his life to support our nation and keep us safe.”
For the past three years, the Brevard Veterans Council has scoured the area looking for veterans who its members believe are worthy of the recognition. This year, they chose Trotter.
According to the accompanying news release, Trotter joined the U.S. Marines shortly after graduating from high school back in 2003. He was a military police officer and deployed to Iraq on several occasions. In 2010, he deployed to Haiti after the earthquake for three months.
Then, in 2011, he was assigned to help in Afghanistan.
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While on a mission, Trotter and his fellow soldiers were ambushed, and a firefight ensued. Trotter was wounded.
His comrades rendered aid and Trotter eventually recovered. He was medically retired from the service because of the injury and became a police officer before transitioning to another career as a public insurance adjuster.
“He was a Palm Bay police officer, too,” said Carl Miller, commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart for Brevard County, the person who recommended Trotter for the award. “In addition to that, he is just an excellent human being.”
Miller said that Trotter is engaged with the veterans community, helping other veterans who need assistance.
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“It is a good feeling to know that not only my town in the county, but the whole county, still care about veterans,” Trotter said. “It has been 10 years since I have been out, and still being shown respect for my service, it is nice to know that people don’t just forget about you just because it was a while ago.”
This article originally appeared on Florida Today: FPL decorates Grant-Valkaria veteran's home in holiday tradition