Now I open my eyes to the fireworks, and as color explodes in the sky, the young faces sitting around me illuminated with possibilities. Because of those willing to sacrifice their time (and for many, their lives) to protect our future, there will always be hope for tomorrow.

The night exploded into colors and shapes as we cheered on the spectacular show.

Despite the beauty overhead, each year I close my eyes for a moment just to ponder the sound. Without theatrics, the bangs and the booms become a soundtrack for a totally different scenario.

War. Combat. Sacrifice.

Reading this are people who’ve prayed for their lives, far away from home, under an explosive sky, and also reading this are the loved ones of those who gave everything for the lives we enjoy today.

I won’t attempt to describe something I don’t fully comprehend, because the only enemy lines I’ve ever crossed are into the kids’ bedroom, and the aisles of Walmart the night before a holiday. But what I can say is that war is gruesome — even I know that much.

Freedom. It’s a gift often taken for granted.

While I search for Logan’s left shoe on a Sunday morning (and eventually find it floating in the creek) and then pile into a church building ten minutes late, it never really crosses my mind that I should thank a soldier. The fact that I can worship God at all is a freedom paid for with American lives.

And if you don’t worship God that same soldier died for your right too.

In the comforts of home, it’s easy to forget that not everyone in the world enjoys the lifestyle we do. And I am going to be real honest with you, sometimes I have a nasty attitude toward all my blessings.

Daily life is filled with mundane moments that I seem to live over and over.

If the kids didn’t keep getting taller, I would swear I was in the movie Groundhog Day (the one where Bill Murray keeps reliving the same day.) We wake up, mess up the house, spend time living out whatever season we are in, and then go to bed in hope that tomorrow comes so we can do it all again.

But underneath that steady rhythm is a unique story, and the fact that mine takes place in modern America is a blessing I often forget. Days like today, spent with friends roasting hot dogs over a fire, making s'mores, and wondering why in the world we decided to do all of that in 90-degree weather, are what I take for granted.

Even in the ridiculous heat were laughs and discussions that might not take place if we lived somewhere else. Sitting around the fire we shared our beliefs and opinions, got fired up over politics, openly discussed our hearts, and prayed over our food without fear.

Many places restrict opinion and speech. How miserable it must be to believe something without the right to voice it. My heart might just explode if I couldn’t sit here at my laptop, type out my passions, and send them into the world.

We don’t have to hide from our opinions thanks to freedom, and the only thing we need fear is the backlash we get from one another — especially if you’re like me because I hate confrontation and conflict of any kind. We all know that one person though, who just lives to get a group of people all riled up over Trump’s latest tweet.

And as veins are bulging from foreheads and blood pressures are rising from the heat of debate, I wonder if anyone else feels that gentle breeze. It’s the soft wind of freedom running in the background of everything we say and do.

We live it and breathe it, but how often we forget the many who fought and died for it.

If you have served or are serving now, if you have spent nights worrying about your soldier while trying to maintain a household until they return, or if your family made the ultimate sacrifice by losing someone you love—thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Now I open my eyes to the fireworks, and as color explodes in the sky, the young faces sitting around me illuminated with possibilities. Because of those willing to sacrifice their time (and for many, their lives) to protect our future, there will always be hope for tomorrow.