07/03/2005 04:15 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

In Honor of Our Country's Independence

In honor of our country's independence, I'm gearing up for an all-day eat-a-thon with family and friends, topped off with a firework display that will elicit the usual squeals, oohs and ahhs from the kids. While we stare at the fireworks shattering the night sky, the adults among us will be squealing too, but we'll also be experiencing some mixed emotions. It will be hard not to think about what's going on in Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, and the Middle East, even though while we sit on our beach blankets, we may feel momentarily insulated from the reality of it all.

As we shield our ears from the loud pops of the fireworks, many of us will be thinking about the fact that our democracy -- our freedom -- was hard won and certainly not free, and that we continue to pay a high price for it both here and abroad. It's important to remember that no matter which side of the political debate one stands upon, supporting our troops, ensuring our security, and defending our freedom will always be vital.

As the mother of four, and an aging hippie-peacenik, I'll be thinking of our young men and women in the Armed Forces when I watch those fireworks. Some of these soldiers are kids barely out of highschool -- fired up young patriots with a United States flag stitched into their uniforms -- doing their best to survive. How do we honor them?

One way is to make sure the freedoms they're fighting to protect are not lost here at home. I'm trying to instill values in my kids; an appreciation for the freedoms, often taken for granted, that our country has offered them, and an awareness of personal responsibility to give back - to be activists for positive change in their communities, both nationally, and globally. Even here in the land that we love, economic aid and psychosocial interventions can go a long way to change lives for the better.

And so, my family will be two members short on this 4th of July celebration. Our two youngest kids are off on separate community service projects, a give-back opportunity that I gently suggested they embark upon. Our 14 year-old daughter opted for a month-long stint in a tiny outpost-town in Alaska, where she and a group of 18 other students will help the locals build new dwellings, and set up a day-care center. Our 16 year-old son will return for his second season as a counselor-in-training at a camp for victims of domestic abuse.

Community service is an important way to protect our freedoms by ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy them. Happy 4th of July.