UNDATED -- It's the Fourth of July as Americans celebrate the nation's birth.
For most, it will be a day of picnics, fireworks and happy times with friends and relatives.
Americans on duty in far off places like Iraq and Afghanistan are also celebrating.
Brigadier General Kevin Bergner is the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq.
He says it's tough being away from family, but he says when you're serving with a group of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, they become "another family."
And he says it's an honor to be celebrating with them.
Retired Admiral Michael Ratliff says the Fourth is a perfect time to underscore the importance of teaching American history.
Ratliff is now director of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute's center for teaching America's founding principles.
He says students who learn about America's history and its institutions are more likely to become engaged in the process as adults, and he says that's good for America.
As Americans at home and abroad celebrate the nation's birthday, the holiday will be marked with tightened security.
Special officers armed with weapons and dogs are on duty around airports, subways and bus stops for the July 4 holiday.
They are part of special Transportation Security Administration teams sent to protect mass transit sites.
The "VIPER" teams are guarding facilities in major cities including Washington, New York, Boston and Philadelphia.
TSA spokeswoman Ellen Howe says they're intended to provide
"a visible deterrent."
Howe says there is "no credible, specific threat for the Fourth." But she says last week's attempted car bombings in Britain were a factor in beefed up security for the 4th.
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks in the U-S, the VIPER teams have regularly been sent out for special events with large crowds, including holidays, the Super Bowl and presidential funerals.