As we take time this weekend to celebrate our nation’s 241st birthday, we pause to recognize the great ideals that our nation has stood for since its founding — freedom, liberty, independence and individual rights.

It is a day where we as Americans look to the future as we continue our great experiment, while reflecting on the sacrifices it took to get here.

In 1776, the Continental Congress gathered in Independence Hall in Philadelphia. There they would author perhaps one of the most profound documents in the history of mankind. Together, our founders set out to create a new nation, one conceived in liberty, where individual rights were to be absolute and where freedom would reign supreme. These men believed that government was instituted by people, and that it derived its just powers from the consent of the governed.

On July 4, 1776, these ideals became a reality with the creation of the United States of America. In an extraordinary act of bravery and patriotism, 56 men later signed the Declaration of Independence.

Our founding fathers knew of the great challenges before them. In the midst of a war against the most powerful military in the world, the United States endured a long and arduous conflict to keep a fledging nation alive.

One that took part throughout the 13 colonies with pivotal battles — the Battle of Oriskany and the Siege of Fort Stanwix — fought right here in upstate New York. The United States went on to win the Revolutionary War, establishing itself as an independent nation and free society for centuries to come.

Today, we think of these decisive moments in our nation’s history and thank the brave members of the United States Armed Forces who fought for us, for the American idea. Who, despite incredible odds, stood strong in our quest to uphold the beliefs of our founding fathers. As the mother of an active duty U.S Marine, I know all too well that the service and sacrifice of these men and women is a debt that can never be repaid.

Throughout our nation’s history we have dealt with challenges both foreign and domestic, yet as Americans we continue to persevere. We stand together in our common patriotism, a deep love for our country and all it stands for.

We remember our nation’s journey, and remember that despite our differences, we are unified as Americans. Our nation is a city upon a hill, in which the eyes of the world are upon us.

On this Fourth of July we celebrate our great nation and all that we have accomplished over these 241 years. We celebrate the bravery of our founders, for in 1776, despite venturing into uncharted territory, the United States began its journey as the first nation to declare its independence.

So, the next time you see our flag gallantly waving in the breeze, remember these wise words by Thomas Jefferson, “the cement of this union is the heart-blood of every American.”