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(Enlarge) Col. Edward C. Rothstein, Garrison Commander

Erma Bombeck, a humorist, journalist and columnist, once said:

"You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks and Soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism."

As we get ready for Fourth of July celebrations next week, I want to encourage everyone who has the day off and a chance to relax with family and friends to use this day of remembrance as a happy occasion and an opportunity to find balance in your life.

I hope somewhere in between those backyard barbecues and, of course, Fort Meade's fireworks celebration, we also find time to honor the ideas that gave birth to this country.

The Declaration of Independence was signed on this day in 1776. Our nation's independence, however, did not come overnight. It took an army of determined and patriotic men united by the ideal of freedom that allowed them to persevere, defeat the British and establish rights in this country to ensure all who live here can celebrate our democracy and freedom.

On this Fourth of July, let's remember our troops, past and present, who have fought for the democracy so many of us are able to take for granted. Let's thank our service members for the sacrifices they make on our behalf.

Just as in 1776, today's military is an all-volunteer force. The brave men and women who make up our military today do so freely. They know that life and liberty are sometimes at risk, and they remain willing to sacrifice their time and their lives for the good of all of us.

This Fourth of July let's honor their generosity and courage. It is because of them that our nation is able to continue to live and grow.

Like Erma said, the Fourth of July is all about patriotism and family picnics. Please make sure you add Fort Meade's celebration to your list of things to do.

For the record, Fort Meade has one of the best Fourth of July celebrations around. Last year, an estimated 20,000 people celebrated the nation's birthday here on McGlachlin Parade Field.

This year's festivities will begin at noon. There will be music, food vendors, games, rides, inflatables and a fabulous fireworks show I'm sure you don't want to miss.

The festivities are designed to help our community (inside and outside our gates) show their patriotism in a relaxing environment where you can find a pretty good balance between all the important things in life including work, family, chores and other things that may keep us from truly enjoying life.

I also want to update you on youth summer volunteer opportunities at Fort Meade. One of my priorities this summer has been working with Team Meade to create a Summer Volunteer Challenge. I believe volunteering is a great way to show our youth that they can make a difference at any age.

The Summer Volunteer Challenge officially kicked off June 25. The program is sponsored by the Fort Meade Army Volunteer Corps, in partnership with Child, Youth and School Services, the USO and Picerne Military Housing.

Youths ages 12 through 18 can register to volunteer a few days a week in organizations throughout Fort Meade. The more hours you volunteer, the greater the opportunity to earn prizes.

For more information or to register for volunteer opportunities, call Marie Miles at Army Volunteer Corps at 301-677-5590 or email marie.n.miles.civ@mail.mil.

It was only two weeks ago that we had a great Army birthday celebration. I'm sure this year's Independence Day celebration will be just an impressive. As always, our goal this summer is to have fun.

Have a safe and fun Fourth of July.

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