This weekend, we celebrate the 245th anniversary of our nation’s independence. As we use this time to celebrate our freedom with family and friends, we must take a moment to remember what Independence Day means to us as a nation.

Our country and the flag that represents it are symbols of freedom and democracy. Although we are not yet a perfect nation, we should aspire to the values embodied by our flag. The stars and stripes stand as a reminder to never forget the men and women who gave their lives defending those values we hold dear.

I am the daughter of an Air Force Master Sergeant. From a young age, I learned the American values of patriotism, hard work, determination, and grit. These values inspired me to pursue my own American dream by leaving home and joining the United States Army myself at the age of 18.

For 24 years, I served under the American flag as an enlisted and an officer, as active duty and a reservist, and retired from the Army Reserve as a Lieutenant Colonel. Serving my country was the honor of a lifetime, and the opportunities the United States have afforded me and others make me proud to be an American, and to have had the honor to serve and protect the American way of life.

From being the first member of my family to pursue a college education, to opening my own small business and private practice, to becoming the first woman ever to serve as president of the Iowa Medical Society, to being elected to represent the great State of Iowa in Congress, I believe that the American Dream is alive and well today. In these United States, if you have a dream and the tenacity to pursue it, you can do anything you put your heart to.

Every time I face the flag with my hand over my heart, I remember all of my fellow service members who have fought to protect our way of life and keep the American Dream alive.

This weekend we celebrate our independence. I wish every family a healthy and safe celebration, and I encourage everyone to take a moment today to look at the American flag and think about what it means to them.

Rep. Miller-Meeks Official Photo

Mariannette Miller-Meeks is a retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel, a resident of Ottumwa, and currently represents Iowa’s Second District in the United States House of Representatives.