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I love the Fourth of July. How could you not love America’s birthday? Parades, barbecue, fireworks or whatever your family traditions are, the Fourth is our premier patriotic holiday. This country celebrates the 243rd anniversary of its independence in style.

On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, announcing to the world the 13 British colonies of America were sovereign states, and declared war on Great Britain. The war in the colonies lasted for another seven years, and hostilities didn’t cease entirely until 1783. The United States as we know it was formed in 1787, and Gen. George Washington became our first president in 1789.

The Fourth is the day we celebrate all those accomplishments. From 1776 until today, from winning the Revolutionary War to putting the first man on the moon, we dress in red, white and blue, go to the lake or the baseball field, and celebrate our freedom and liberty. At least those of us here on American soil do.

You see, there are currently more than 165,000 active duty military personnel stationed outside of the U.S. and its territories in more than 150 countries around the world. Somewhere around 14,000 troops are still in Afghanistan. In total, our country has more than a million service members on active duty.

Those men and women work hard and risk their lives daily to protect us and our freedom. And we should keep them in mind this holiday weekend.

I encourage you not just to think about those soldiers, but do a little something to help them out if you can. The U.S. Post Office website offers a free “Military Care Kit” with all the supplies necessary to send a care package overseas, and the U.S. Department of Defense website has a list of organizations that help coordinate care packages to soldiers who are deployed. Additionally, you can simply write a letter thanking them for their service. I’ve had many veterans tell me mail is one of, if not the best, morale booster a soldier in a foreign country can get.

Thank you to all the service members, active duty and veterans for your contributions to our country. Thanks to your dedication and sacrifice, we live in the greatest country in the world.

State Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, represents the 6th District, and shares his perspective on statehouse issues twice a month.

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