PICKENS, S.C. - Over a decade ago, I chose America as my new and only country.

Pure luck--I prefer to call it fate--brought me to Greenville, South Carolina, in 2001. That first encounter with upstate South Carolina eventually led to a second trip, a third, and ultimately became my American Dream.

As I said goodbye to my native country, Italy, and pledged my loyalty and commitment to the United States of America, to the flag and what it represents, and to the privilege to serve the people of South Carolina and the United States, I also felt a sense of gratitude for what America represents.

As a relatively new American, I discover new aspects of my adoptive country every day - who we are as people and what we do, how we cope and learn from our mistakes, how we celebrate our achievements and greatness, and, ultimately, how we honor the gift that is America.

Over the past two weeks, I've met men and women serving the people of South Carolina, and the United States, with remarkable levels of dedication, passion, professionalism and altruism.

These are the South Carolina National Guard Soldiers fighting the South Carolina wildfires from the sky.

These are the unstoppable South Carolina Forestry Commission firefighters fighting the same battle from the ground, in the woods, day in and day out. These are the Red Cross volunteers, the additional South Carolina Forestry Commission employees, the Pickens County Sheriff deputies, the South Carolina National Guard firefighters, and many other individuals, to include Dave, the former U.S. Army Ranger, now the CEO at Greenville Water, who has been shuttling firefighters on a small boat, across the water reservoir.

As Thanksgiving Day approached and the wildfires continued to burn around the Table Rock-Pinnacle Mountain area, I wanted to learn more about the meaning of this holiday by spending time with these volunteers and professionals of public service, who sacrificed time with their families to protect the state.

If Thanksgiving is a celebration of gratitude and gratefulness, then to fight wildfires on Thanksgiving Day ought to be considered an act of selfless dedication to duty, as public servants, and love, as citizens of South Carolina and the Unites States.

I am grateful for the privilege of serving with these men and women. They are remarkable, the aircraft on which they fly are remarkable, what they do is remarkable, and remarkable is the American Dream from which I benefit every day.

Today, I can be nothing but grateful for this country and, most importantly, its people. It is because of what Thanksgiving Day reminds me of, the exceptional nature behind the birth of the nation itself, and the consequent commitment to that original idea from those who have served and continue to serve, whether on a holiday or any day of the week.

Yes, gratitude is what I witnessed on Thursday, November 24, 2016 -- Thanksgiving Day - as my buddies, and fellow service members, were dumping water from the sky on the South Carolina wildfires. Such acts of courage, selfless service and professionalism can come from the deepest appreciation for the gift of being an American.

This might not be the textbook definition of the meaning of Thanksgiving, but I can't think of a better way to celebrate Thanksgiving Day than by spending it with some of today's greatest Americans and South Carolina's best sons and daughters. That is a lot to be grateful for.