Welcome to July. The month where business at the local fireworks stand picks up and teenagers in your neighborhood plan for a weeklong Fourth of July celebration. Yep, we’re a country of folks who love to indulge in a little bar-b-que, beer and bottle rockets.
Indulge away, but keep this one thing in mind: Fireworks may be just a minor annoyance to the parents of babies and toddlers, but they can cause troubling thoughts, feelings and actions in our nation’s most respected men and women.
What You Might Not Know About Veterans and Fireworks
Put yourself in the boots of a combat veteran. For months or years, loud popping noises served as a sign of imminent danger. You can imagine the physical reaction required to stay alive in those very real situations of war.
Now consider what it must be like to be at home in the United States, safe and asleep in your bed, when those noises start again. How might you respond? For those with PTSD, the response can be troubling.
If this is news to you, that’s OK. As Jennifer Haynes, the wife of a former Marine, explains, “Not all scars are visible — you can’t see what’s on the inside.”2 Of course, once you have the information, you should do something with it, right?
How to Best Honor the People Who Protect Our Independence
We love any excuse to hang with family and friends, don’t we? No problem there. Still, it helps to remember why we’re gathering for this special occasion. We celebrate the Fourth of July to commemorate our independence from Great Britain. You know this. But here’s what we often forget: we don’t remain a free country without the vigilant protection of our military men and women.
When it comes to July Fourth, they are our “why.” Veterans must be given full consideration on a day protected by them. Let’s do that, shall we?
If a veteran lives nearby or will be attending your celebration:
1. Ask questions ahead of time.
Reach out to your friend, neighbor or family member and say, “I know hearing fireworks can be difficult for some veterans. It’s important to me that you feel comfortable. What can I do to make this as easy a night as possible for you?”3
Listen and plan accordingly. If the person you’re speaking with seems too ashamed to answer, follow through with one of the suggestions below as a common courtesy.
2. Provide specifics about when you’ll shoot fireworks.
Pull any veterans at your party aside to let them know when the fireworks will begin at your house and how long you expect them to last.3 Offer a room with a TV where they can distract themselves and let them off the hook by saying, “I completely understand if you’d like to leave before the fireworks begin. I’m just so glad we’re getting to spend time with you now!”
3. Consider attending a fireworks show at night after celebrating at home that day.
Invite friends and family over for a relaxing afternoon bash and, as night approaches, pile up in a few cars and head to a local fireworks show put on by professionals. Your veteran guests with PTSD can part ways with no explanations required. Plus you’ll do your part in not adding to the noise of the night.
If you’re shooting fireworks and unaware of any veterans in your area:
Leave notes for your neighbors.
Veterans report that unexpected fireworks can be much more triggering than planned, anticipated fireworks.1 So be sure to give the folks on your street a friendly heads-up.3
What You Can Do to Endure (and Even Enjoy!) the Fourth of July
What if you’re the guy or gal we’re talking about who is affected by PTSD? Well, first, let us take a moment to say we so appreciate your service and sacrifice. We hope you find ways to truly enjoy the freedom you worked so hard to protect.
Above all, be honest with the people in your life about the thoughts, feeling and concerns you have regarding the Fourth of July. You’ll likely find folks who are willing and ready to do what they can to make sure you can not only be a part of the celebration, but have some fun too!
If you’re struggling with PTSD and would like help, contact Life + Challenge at 877-714-1322.
By: Stephanie Thomas
1 Siemaszko, Corky. For Military Vets with PTSD, 4th and Fireworks Can Be Nerve-Wracking. NBC News, July 4, 2016.
2 Tomlin, Jimmy. Veteran’s PTSD Sign Asks for Fireworks Courtesy. Military.com, 2018.
3 Schuster, Sarah. What People With PTSD Need From You This Fourth of July. The Mighty, July 2, 2017.