The final months of every year are full of annual traditions that bring family and friends together. These events serve as a good reminder to pause and be thankful for one another, our friends, family and country.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to see my children grow. When I look at Kassidy, Kennedy and Booker, I am continually amazed by the strong young individuals they are turning out to be. It’s been different around the Noem house with Kassidy away at college, which makes me appreciate the time we have together as a family even more.

Here in South Dakota, we have so much to be thankful for. In the face of a severe drought, our state’s economy has managed to stay strong. Due to the perseverance and determination of South Dakota families and small businesses, our state continues to lead the way towards long-lasting economic stability.

We should also give thanks for our great country. All too often, people across the world are persecuted for their political beliefs or the religion they adhere to. It’s hard to believe that the freedoms we enjoy in the United States that are so fundamental to our way of life are unthinkable elsewhere in the world. I am thankful for the men and women who have fearlessly fought to defend these freedoms and for those that will continue to answer the call to defend our nation into the future.

While many of us may celebrate in warm homes this holiday season, I encourage South Dakotans to also give back to those who are less fortunate. Many communities across the state have volunteer opportunities for individuals and families to lend a helping hand to those in need in the upcoming weeks.

So whatever the family tradition is this Thanksgiving, I hope South Dakotans will take the time to reflect on all there is to be thankful for.

Rep. Kristi Noem is South Dakota’s lone U.S. Representative, elected in November 2010. She serves on the Agriculture, Education and Workforce and Natural Resources Committees.

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