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The 4th of July

Today is July 4th, the day the United States citizens celebrate their independence. As a born and raised American citizen, I have origins from multiple historically excluded groups (HEGs) that were and are systemically oppressed. However, that does not change my view that the 4th of July represents independence for the greatest nation in the world. Does that mean that freedom and independence are equally distributed for all? The answer is not even close. We do not get to check done when something is ingrained in our society. The work of true freedom and equality will continue until the end of humankind.

My parents were born and raised in Mississippi during the Great Depression. Upon completing high school, they married and migrated to the St. Louis Metropolitan East area in the mid-1950s to pursue a better life and live their dream.

This great nation afforded them the opportunity to do it their way. But, I want to emphasize that they lived their dream. Their dream was authentic, and they made it work. My father worked on one of the construction crews that built the St. Louis Arch grounds, located downtown in St. Louis, MO, on the Mississippi River, where the fireworks display is held. Sometimes, we would just pack some food and watch the fireworks from a school parking lot. We didn't wave flags or dress in flags, but we did watch just about every year, either in person or on television.

What July 4th symbolizes to me is the freedom to express and speak what you believe peacefully. If you want to take a knee when you hear the national anthem, that's your right. If you want to stand at attention when you hear the national anthem, that is also your right. There have been times in my life as a person from a HEG when I have been on opposite ends of both spectrums. Those are the rights that I signed up for, swore an oath, and defended for six years.

The fact is the United States fought for and won its independence. No one gave the United States anything. The cost of freedom has always required sacrifice in the form of blood, sweat, and the loss of life for anything worth having. Has the U.S. gotten it right every single time? No, not even close! The work of evolving and sustaining freedom wages on. But for today, I will pause to remember and acknowledge the sacrifices of everyone who fought to acquire and fights to

sustain, and evolve this nation's freedom.

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