The Fourth of July is always a special time in Nebraska. I have fond childhood memories of backyard barbecues, American flags waving, parades and fireworks in the summer night sky. Hometowns all across our country, large and small, celebrated the birth of our nation in their own unique ways.

In 1776, John Adams wrote his wife, Abigail, that the anniversary of our independence should be observed with great celebration. He wrote, “... with pomp and parade... shows and games ... with bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, and from this time forevermore.”

Since 1868, the community of Seward, Nebraska has commemorated the anniversary of our country’s founding. The community has a rich history, and this celebration has grown to receive national attention because of its emphasis on a total community effort. This is a true example of “small town” America, and the celebration has continued for more than 140 years.

Seward is officially proclaimed as “America’s Small Town 4th of July City.” It hosts families from across the State of Nebraska in an old-fashioned family celebration every year. I was excited to take part in the parade in Seward this year, as well as the 58th Annual Independence Day Parade in Ralston.

The Fourth of July offers us a chance to think about what unites us as a country. It demonstrates that our core values bind us together and make us a truly remarkable nation. It is a reminder of what makes our country great and the sacrifices so many have given to preserve and protect the land we love.

Our nation is forever indebted to people like Sergeant Lloyd Koerting of Norfolk. He selflessly put his life on the line to defend our country in Vietnam. I was deeply honored to personally present Sergeant Koerting with the Purple Heart medal this year. His example inspires us, each and every day, to serve our neighbors and be all that we can be.

Our veterans are living reminders of the enduring efforts to defend our freedom. As a grateful nation, we must continue to welcome home our servicemen and women with open arms as we uphold our pledge to care for those who have selflessly defended our country. This year, I’ll also be praying for our brave troops who are currently defending our nation overseas.

Two hundred and forty-two years ago, our Founding Fathers pledged that here in America, men and women are born with God-given rights. The people would decide the power of the government, not the other way around. Our Declaration of Independence chartered our nation as a beacon of freedom in an uncertain world.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting again with you next week.