Independence Day is one of our country’s greatest celebrations. Americans reportedly eat more than 150 million hot dogs and use more than 285 million pounds of fireworks each year on the Fourth of July while celebrating their independence.

It’s an occasion like no other, and if there is one holiday that could unify our country better than any other celebration, I’d be inclined to say that it is Independence Day.

When our Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, they declared America to be a sovereign nation, free from British rule, and free to be the independent nation we know today.

Even though it was 241 years ago, the meaning of the holiday still rings true for me. Independence Day is a celebration of the freedoms we are blessed with that people in other foreign countries or under tyrannical rulers don’t have the privilege of enjoying.

Our freedoms allow us to practice a religion of our choosing, speak our minds freely even if we disagree with those around us, access to a quality education, and hold meetings in order to discuss and solve problems in our communities.

We have the freedom to participate in free and open elections, which are at the core of our form of government. We are also free to peacefully protest when we disagree with our government without fear of persecution.

It’s easy to take those freedoms for granted, but this Independence Day, I encourage you to count your blessings for the various freedoms you have and remember who it is that makes them possible. Much like our Founding Fathers, our brave men and women put their lives on the line to protect our way of life.

The courageous men and women of our nation’s armed forces are the unwavering defenders of our freedom at home and abroad.

They spend countless days, weeks, and even years away from their families and loved ones to make sure that you can enjoy your freedoms to speak your mind, carry a gun, vote in an election, and so many others – even if they don’t know you at all.

This year, while you’re sitting under a fireworks display or enjoying a hot dog from the grill, take time to remember that freedom isn’t free. Sacrifices are made every day by our men and women to protect our American flag and the freedom it stands for.

Independence Day is what brings us together as Americans to celebrate our freedoms – not as Democrats or Republicans, but as one unified nation under God.

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) represents the second district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached through http://mullin.house.gov, and at 3109 Azalea Park Drive, Muskogee, OK, 74401, 918-687-2533 or 202-225-2701