U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol

Today's the day... Memories and emotions on high today. The meaning of it all. The value it represents and the price that has been paid. Some recognize and respect it. Others take it for granted. Others deliberately disrespect it. And that's OK. Independence Day (NOT the 4th of July... We don't celebrate a day, we celebrate independence).

Parades, families, BBQ, the beach, the pool, relaxing, and games. But for me its the parade. My late wife AJ and I loved the parade most of all... OK, you got me...I loved the fireworks the most but this is a tribute...so back to the parade. Cars and firetrucks, bands and civic groups. Young kids and old Vets. All engaged in honoring our country and what it means.

And what it means is this... Freedom...Liberty...Opportunity... A choice and a chance. American Exceptionalism. America is NOT exceptional because we are better than anybody else... Heck, we get a lot of things wrong. American is NOT exceptional because we are stronger than anyone else. But we are exceptional! We are exceptional because America is the only country in the world where the government works for the PEOPLE! In every other country on earth, the people work for and are controlled by the government. Not here. At least not yet...

We're exceptional because America is the only country in the world where every citizen gets to chose what he or she is going to be, going to do, where they live, and where they are going to work. Other countries give you approval or permission to do that. In America you can start a business without the governments approval. You need a license and you pay taxes but the goverent can't tell you no. I've lived in other countries, Germany and England for example, where the government must allow you to start a business. In third world countries its even worse.

In America you can still dream big and live big. Your dream...Your life...Your way. That's freedom. That's liberty. And that's the greatest gift you can get in this world with the exception of salvation through Jesus Christ...The ultimate liberty...

America...We're not perfect. Just look at our current arguments about immigration, politics, left versus right, border control...I could go on. But you get the idea. America is not exceptional because of anything we do...We're exceptional because of the fact that we are unique. We live free. We live our lives based upon our choices. Our talents...Our passions. And we are free to get it wrong. And we do. A lot.

But thank God we have the freedom to mess up! To argue and debate, and yes, to be wrong. We are free.

But the most important thing to remember about today is how we became exceptional... People in our past and in our present sacrificed for us to have this gift. They bled and some died. Oftentimes, they left family and friends for long periods of time. They left their homes and their jobs to go around the world and risk their lives. Some gave parts of their bodies and lived a life of pain and loss so that we could go to the beach and have a picnic, or watch fireworks, or simply sit and watch the parade go by...

Freedom...Liberty...Justice...Simple concepts to understand but extremely hard to get right...even harder to keep...And terribly expensive to acquire. Take a moment to remember those who paid for our today by sacrificing their tomorrows. Thank those who served and are serving. And remember just what today is all about...

And thank God we have the chance to experience all this and to live in a country where we are free. Messy, argumentative, sometimes ungrateful, but free.

AJ would expect nothing less from us and the USA! May God Richly Bless each of you.

J.R. McGee is the Founder and CEO of The X-Stream Leadership Group LLC and host of the radio show "Behind the Lines... Intel You Can Trust"


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