With the passing of Independence Day, veterans like us can’t help but reflect upon the true meaning of patriotism and the responsibility that comes with citizenship. The United States (and the rest of the world) is facing a decision crisis of monumental importance to us all: the right to clean air and clean water – a clean and healthful environment as guaranteed by our Montana Constitution.

We recognize that air pollution and climate change are a major threat to our future security and support immediate, bold action. It is time for Americans to rise to the challenge. It is our patriotic duty to keep our nation safe and secure, and doing so requires generating clean, domestic, affordable and safe energy. The solutions are attainable, but they require us to put aside politics and work together. As Montana veterans, we deeply understand the spirit of Americans rising to meet a national challenge.

Right now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is working to better protect our families’ health by cleaning up dangerous, disease-causing air pollution. They’re developing new clean air standards that would protect our health by stopping the release of millions of tons of life-threatening pollutants, such as arsenic, mercury, smog-producing ozone, and carbon dioxide into the air. This course of action will save lives and help decrease the rate of asthma attacks, lung infections, cancer and other illnesses.

Big polluters, as one might imagine, are trying to stop these standards from moving forward, and their friends in Congress are trying to keep the EPA from doing its job. Montana’s Sen. Jon Tester voted to protect the Clean Air Act, while Rep. Denny Rehberg has consistently voted in favor of big polluters. We support common-sense emission standards to protect our air, water and communities and support political leaders who do the same.

The dirty oil and energy companies have blocked progress for too long and want to preserve the loopholes that allow them to continue to pollute the air we breathe and water we drink – at a dangerous cost to our nation. They also want to keep us dependent on old, dirty technology instead of using clean energy technology that already exists, and they use their influence to block updates to Clean Air Act standards that will protect our air and water and lead to innovation. Their actions put our economic security and safety in jeopardy.

So what can you as an American citizen do to curtail our dirty energy addiction and bring about a more prosperous, healthy nation? We need to show that there is strong and widespread support for new clean air standards to protect our families’ health.

It would also be helpful to call Sens. Tester and Baucus and urge them to continue to protect the Clean Air Act and the EPA authority to set emission standards to protect our health.

Let them know that, as a patriot, you feel compelled to speak out in favor of policies that take the necessary steps to mitigate air pollution, climate change and make our nation more healthy and secure at the same time.

So when we celebrate and support the United States of America on Independence Day, be a true patriot and do what benefits the greater good for Montana, our nation, and, ultimately, the planet.

This piece was co-authored by the following these Montana veterans: state Sen. Cliff Larsen, SP4 E-4 P-1, 1st Battalion 35th Infantry (The Cacti), 25th Infantry Division, of Missoula; state Sen. Larry Jent, West Point graduate and Green Beret, of Bozeman; Bob Raney, former state legislator, current Public Service Commission member and Vietnam veteran, of Livingston; and Mike Jarnevic, U.S. Army veteran of 38 years, of Piltzville.