As we celebrate this Fourth of July, let us take a moment to pause from the backyard barbecues, pool parties and firework celebrations to remember the true significance of the day — our country’s fight for independence.
That freedom, like the air we breathe, is easy to take for granted. But we must remember that it never comes free.
For more than a decade now since the Sept. 11 attacks, our country has been reminded of that fact every day while our young men and women serve overseas, risking their lives to protect our freedom and liberty at home.
Please remember them and keep them in your prayers.
On patriotic days, I often think of my father. A World War II veteran, he would often talk with me over breakfast about his memories of his youth and wartimes.
My Dad would talk about leaving his young wife and two babies, and how difficult it was for the families because so many loved ones did not return.
In fact, he told me that when the war began, if a pilot flew 50 missions, he could return home. But that changed to 25, because if a pilot made it past 16 missions, he was beating the odds.
My Dad also told me that Americans then were much more aware of what was at risk, and were much more willing to sacrifice.
I remember my father’s huge ball of “tin foil” in his kitchen. He saved aluminum foil that covered food or lined a container.
During World War II, the foil was used for the war effort and every bit of it was saved.
One day, I bought my Dad a roll of aluminum foil and told him he could throw away the ball of crumpled used foil that he didn't need.
He looked at me with sorrow in his eyes and said, “No. It reminds me.”
My Dad took great pride in the fact that his daughter is a senator. Each morning over coffee, he would bring up something that I need to change.
One of his most-often-used phrases was, “Get back to the basics,” especially when it came to education.
And while his focus was reading, writing and math in our schools, he also meant more than that.
He meant teaching our children our nation’s history and the basic principles upon which our nation was founded.
He was shocked at what is shown on public television and in our movie theaters, and would encourage me to pass a law to “get that junk off the TV.”
He was saddened by the lure of drugs in the lives of so many of our youth and wanted corporal punishment for drug dealers.
He told me that the greatest enemy of our nation today is not in the Middle East — but it is within.
Contrary to what my father believed, I cannot win those battles alone. But we can win them together.
We can pass on the values that our parents and grandparents instilled in us to our children and grandchildren.
We can be involved in our public school systems. We can turn off the TV and have family dinners.
Not just on the Fourth of July, but every day of the year, we can remind our children of the great blessing it is to be an American.
We can celebrate our freedom.
And we can remember and be thankful for all of those who have given their lives to protect it.
SEN. JANE NELSON represents District 12, including portions of Denton and Tarrant counties. She is the chairwoman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and the highest-ranking Republican in the Texas Senate.