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EDITORIAL: A celebration of our country

"You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism."

Erma Bombeck

It only seems like yesterday that the United States celebrated its bicentennial year in 1976.

This 4th of July holiday marks our nation's 234th birthday. Time flies.

As families gather to share meals, spend quality time at the beach or view a rousing fireworks display, try to remember the reason behind this annual red, white and blue celebration.

To provide freedom -- and maintain freedom -- throughout our nation's history, people have sacrificed much. Throughout history, those who believed in democracy have fought wars, served as part of our government and struggled to right wrongs that have been part of our society.

Our system of government, as a result, has evolved and grown into what we see today.

Although it isn't perfect, our society is the envy of most people around the world. Take a moment to be thankful for the fact that you are able to call the U.S. home.

Little known 4th facts

• There have been 28 versions of the U.S. flag. The most recent version of Old Glory was designed after Alaska and Hawaii joined the union and was the result of a school project. Robert Heft was just 17 years old when he came up with the flag design in 1958. According to the story, Heft originally got a B- on the project. The grade was raised to an A when his pattern won the national competition to become the next flag.

• John Hancock was the only person to sign the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The rest signed on Aug. 2, which may explain the size difference in the signatures. Hancock used different ink.

• The first actual celebration of the nation's birthday was held on July 8, 1776, when the Declaration was read aloud. The festivities included a parade and fireworks.