"Never take America for granted!" Words my American parents drilled into me during my formative years growing up in the Middle East. Is it possible to become more patriotic when the United States is far over the horizon? Perhaps.
Just to make sure I never forgot its words I often sang the Star Spangled Banner as I listened to the Voice of America sign-off. My patriotic equivalent of a nightly prayer.
So many other Americans live over that horizon... far from our shores. They are not only our young men and women in uniform, but dedicated members of the Peace Corps, the U.S. Foreign Service, and other organizations and NGOs for which the 4th of July is a day to assemble at a U.S. diplomatic outpost to celebrate our heritage and honor our nation's legacy.
Every U.S. embassy hosts a 4th of July reception for Americans and foreign nationals. It is an opportunity for Peace Corps members to briefly depart from their remote assignments to a U.S. embassy and get a good American meal and feel U.S. soil under the feet again. It provides our remarkably talented Foreign Service diplomats a rare occasion to return the hospitality accorded the embassy by each host government. It is also an opportunity for U.S. marines guarding the embassy the privilege of parading our national colors instead of manning their outposts.
Any homesick American is welcome... it is the one day that an embassy opens its doors for Americans residing abroad to join together to rekindle our national bond -- a bond we dare not let become divisible by party, ideology, or heritage. Americans serving abroad live by the principles that unite us, not those that divide us.
Today, I ask my fellow Americans to take a moment to honor the tens of thousands of brave, dedicated, and patriotic Americans serving our nation abroad who is not necessarily in uniform. They are civilian military personnel, diplomats, employees of the Agency for International Development, Peace Corps members, Americans assigned to international organizations and relief agencies, intelligence officials and so many others who serve America abroad.
By their service and sacrifice, they honor America and all Americans not only on this 4th of July, but the other 364 days of the year..