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Happy birthday, America!

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- All across the United States today, communities are coming together to celebrate our nation's 232nd birthday in a sea of red, white and blue.

On that long ago day in Philadelphia's Independence Hall leaders made a bold decision. When they signed their names to the Declaration of Independence, they risked everything to guarantee the rights of "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."

Over the centuries, America has had many growth spurts and has been reborn in many different ways-from the Civil War of the 1860s to the Civil Rights movement one hundred years later. We are a Nation constantly seeking to better itself with the words "freedom" and "democracy" guiding us along the path.

Today, we face new challenges in global unrest-threats that Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin could never have imagined in their wildest dreams.

This 4th of July, the 45th Space Wing and its mission partners have approximately 100 Airmen serving in harm's way in every corner of the world, fighting the Global War on Terror. Just as in Revolutionary War times, so many answer our nation's call to protect the ideal that we all believe in with all our hearts - our right to freedom!

Today, our military is made up of Americans who are unwaveringly committed to the protection of those basic rights. And because there are always those who would seek to undermine us, by necessity, the military today must willingly and aggressively lean forward with courage to meet adversity head-on. It takes sacrifice to make that kind of commitment, and we should never forget the daily service made by both our Americans in uniform and the families who support them.

So as you celebrate the 4th of July with your family and friends during this holiday weekend, remember that an Airman's day in a foreign land continues uninterrupted and ever vigilant. Remember that the very routine of every service member deployed today is part of a great campaign to ensure we preserve our basic rights for all Americans and our allies. I know you will celebrate the wisdom of our forefathers who established our rights over 200 years ago, but also remember that it takes regular Americans called to duty in service to our country who ensure the preservation of those rights.

Please keep all service men and women deployed overseas in your thoughts and prayers. And during this Florida season of '101 Critical Days of Summer', pay special emphasis to the fact that you too are a valuable asset! Whether you are an Airman, civil servant, contractor, dependant or retiree, you too play a critical role in today's 'fight', so be safe as you celebrate both your independence, and the people to preserve it! Go Sharks!