Holidays in Iraq are much like any other day. The biggest difference is what the chow hall does to celebrate. I distinctly remember walking through the chow hall on COS Marez up in Mosul and getting choked up on Memorial Day because they’d had such a beautiful display. For the 4th of July, they’d decorated the whole place in red white and blue streamers and had a massive American flag cake.

But being deployed, even being stationed overseas anywhere, makes you realize that holidays that are important to us aren’t important everywhere else. Funny how being in a foreign country will make you appreciate the things back home even more. Last year, my husband and I braved the crowd and found a spot on the grass to watch the fireworks with the girls. Sitting in the back of his truck, we had a beer and the girls watched the sky burst over head.

This year, I’m seeking quiet. I’m not braving the 100,000 people on Fort Hood for Freedom Fest. Crowded events like that doesn’t really do it for me anymore. I hated walking through Times Square this past week and the thought of keeping an eye on both kids in a crowd like the one expected on Fort Hood doesn’t really strike up feelings of patriotism and celebration. More like panic, if you want to know the truth.

But the 4th of July is something to celebrate. It’s the founding of our nation. The day we as Americans stood up and said we will be our own people. We are willing to fight and die for this honor. And we did. We, a tiny nation of cast offs from the rest of the world fought and won from the greatest nation on earth at the time. We proved that we wanted something better for our children.

As we celebrate the Fourth of July, remember the greatness that founded our nation. Let’s take a moment and ask ourselves what can I do to make the world around me better. Maybe it’s nothing so bold as declare our independence from an oppressive government. Maybe it’s as simple as holding the door for someone. Or not getting angry that someone took your parking spot. Today, remember the great sacrifice that our forefathers have made so that we may go to the park and watch fireworks. Just for today, remember the greatness that is our nation and celebrate the good fortune of having been born a part of this great nation.

For our nation is exceptional. And together, we can continue to make it better. Happy 4th of July. Remember our soldiers who are overseas today and whose only celebration of the founding of our nation is a piece of Stars and Stripes cake in the chow hall before they kit up and head back out on the roads.