Most of us will celebrate July 4 by taking part in various activities, like parades, picnics, concerts, and watching fireworks, all while outdoors with friends and family.

But as we take the time to enjoy these fun events, it is also important to understand what Independence Day truly stands for. It is a day that represents the moment in American history when the Declaration of Independence was considered to be the next big step in claiming ourselves as our own nation.

Chapel Hillian and veteran of the United States Army, Fred Black, says that the Fourth of July is unique in relation to other similar national holidays, and that it is important to acknowledge what a significant step it was for the United States to celebrate our newfound freedom.

“Independence Day is one of our only real national holidays that was designed to be a celebration,” says Black. “I think we have instilled in our DNA as a nation that this was a day of celebration when we created a new nation. I think we celebrate the Fourth of July as one of those kinds of holidays that is unlike any other.”

Black also discusses his military history and the value that Independence Day had for him and his community during that time in history.

“Fourth of July was just always a big day,” says Black. “There were big events for the community because the community rallied around it, and that was big in the military because it was very parallel to what we as military folks took as an oath: we are going to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Well, we couldn’t have a Constitution until we declared ourselves free.”

In the celebration of Independence Day, Black says that he sees a distinct difference in the way that these national holidays should be observed.

“I think one of the key differences in my mind is Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day celebrate people. The Fourth of July celebrates a concept, that here we were willing to declare ourselves free and independent, and fight to preserve that independence.”

Black also says he encourages that, as we celebrate this Fourth of July, we should remember to stay safe and stay smart.

“Since we are celebrating our independence and our freedom, we shouldn’t do stupid stuff and overindulge,” says Black. “This is the worst day for accidents in our nation’s calendar, and we should conduct ourselves accordingly and not make this a day of national tragedy.”