It's an interesting feeling being away from the States on the Fourth of July.  In some ways it almost passes without second notice, there are no parades, picnics or fireworks in the sky to act as a reminder of my country's independence.  And yet, a sense of patriotism creeps into my daily life here nonetheless.  I remind myself to be grateful for the freedoms I posses as an American when it comes to anything from the simple pleasure of watching tv shows on to walking along the street without the eyes of Big Brother at my back.  These are freedoms I enjoyed without significant acknowledgement of the sacrifices taken to achieve them.  I hope that not only of the Fourth of July, but throughout the year, I will remember to not underscore the precious value of my rights as a free citizen.  At the same time, I am grateful for the opportunity to travel beyond my backyard and experience cultures different from my own.  But most of all, I am grateful for receiving an education that has left me with an open mind, so I can respect cultural differences and bridge valleys between my own way of life and that of those I meet along my way.  

On this Fourth of July, I also express appreciation for the men and women who sacrifice life, time and normalcy, and commit themselves to helping those who want and deserve these freedoms attain them.  Thank you.