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This Independence Day, remember those who protect our freedom

Last month, seven sailors — including one from Baltimore County — were killed in a collision between a U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer, USS Fitzgerald, and a Filipino merchant ship. Ranging in age from 19 to 37, these sailors represent a cross section of America's finest, hailing from various communities, socio-economic levels and ethnic groups from across the globe. While those who knew him mourn the loss of Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, a Landsdowne High School graduate who worked hard to rise through Navy ranks to become one of the youngest sailors to achieve the rank of petty officer first class, they are not alone. As a retired Vice Admiral with 35 years of service in the U.S. Navy, I can confidently say that the crew's swift and effective response to keep the ship afloat and power it back to port saved many more lives. I can say with certainty that Navy families come together in times of tragedy. And finally, I can say without reservation that members of our all-volunteer armed forces routinely put themselves in dangerous places for the good of the country and sometimes make the difficult choice to sacrifice themselves to save the lives of their fellow service members. Our nation has prevailed for 241 years because of such honor, courage and commitment, as evidenced by those who laid down their lives for our nation, including our fallen sailors last month.

As we prepare to celebrate our nation's 241st birthday on Independence Day, we must remind ourselves that the reason we can enjoy backyard barbeques and cookouts, go to concerts, carnivals, and county fairs, participate in and watch the myriad of parades and fireworks displays is because of those wearing the cloth of the nation who guard our freedoms. We also must remember that only a fraction of Americans volunteer to serve our country in uniform. Please take a moment this Independence Day to say "thank you" to those who have served and a silent prayer for those who still serve, often far from home. Please take actions as needed to help veterans — who are our neighbors, friends and loved ones — struggling with physical and mental health issues to offer assistance when needed. If you are an employer, hire veterans whose training, discipline and experience make them assets to the workforce. If you are an individual who seeks to make a difference, donate or volunteer to support the needs of our nation's veterans.

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While we can never fully repay the debt owed to all of the service men and women throughout the history of the United States, we can choose to honor them by cherishing our freedom and liberty. This Independence Day — and every day — we can choose to acknowledge their sacrifices by thanking them for their service and celebrating the freedom that we enjoy each and every day.

Dr. Adam M. Robinson Jr., Baltimore

The writer is director of the VA Maryland Health Care System.

Send letters to the editor to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

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