Is it unpatriotic to dread the Fourth of July? I wonder if some U.S. veterans do, in fact dread Independence Day because of the bottle rockets, shot missiles and other fireworks set off to mark the occasion.
NBC News contributor Bill Briggs wrote last year about Iraq War veteran Pete Chinnici, 26, who is “yanked backward in time to an unfriendly, unpredictable, violent land,” when neighborhood kids play with firecrackers. Briggs quotes Dr. John Hart of the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas:
“Fireworks hit right in the heart of these causes [PTSD triggers.] Here’s an explosive-looking thing and a loud noise. What they’ll feel when they hear or see fireworks is mostly fear, a sense of threat as they did during combat when the IED went off or when the Humvee blew up.
Among all U.S. veterans, estimates of the prevalence of reported PTSD ranges from 10-25 percent. For the Iraq and Afghanistan wars alone, there are 2.4 million U.S. veterans. Veterans of other wars feel the effects of fireworks, too. Vietnam veteran Ken Kalish explained on Minnesota Public Radio why you don’t see veterans at fireworks shows:
“Anyone who’s been in combat knows that almost every time we heard those sounds … it was either because they were trying to kill us or because we were trying to kill them. Those of us who’ve been in combat don’t like to make a big deal out of it, but next time you’re in the park watching fireworks, take a look around. A lot of veterans — as patriotic as they come — won’t be there.”
The blog EcoMerge offers suggestions on ways to reduce the impact of fireworks on those suffering from PTSD.
- Consider viewing public firework displays instead of setting ones off in your neighborhood.
- Talk with Veterans in your neighborhood to see if any particular fireworks are upsetting.
- Let neighbors know what time you will be setting off fireworks and for what length of time.
- Refrain from setting off fireworks at unexpected times during the day.
- Choose a location that will be least likely to disturb vets.
- Minimize the amount of fireworks that you set off.
The National Fire Protection Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics’ teamed up to form the Alliance to Stop Consumer Fireworks. They argue that fireworks displays should be organized and managed by trained professionals, not neighborhood fire bugs. Bans on fireworks from consumers would reduce dismemberment, vision loss, burns, scarring and housefires caused by the pyrotechnics. For veterans and others suffering from PTSD, a ban on consumer fireworks would provide some relief. They wouldn’t have to dread and suffer the consequences of impromptu blasts of fireworks in their neighborhoods, while taking steps to avoid the noise from their town’s scheduled public fireworks displays.