Today as I write this is Independence Day in the US (or the colonies’ celebration of treason and insurrection for my British readers). Many people will be going to the beach, hosting barbecues, going to parades, watching fireworks shows, and attending programs honoring living and deceased veterans. My celebration will probably involve staying home, grilling a couple bratwursts, watching Ken Burns’ documentary about Thomas Jefferson, and avoiding loud fireworks. I don’t mind the bright colored ones after dark. But it’s the ones that sound like cannons and gunfire I can do without. And many war veterans feel the same way even if they may not publicly say so.
I have lived in my current apartment complex for ten years. During that time most of the residents would watch Independence Day fireworks from lawn chairs in the back yard or from their windows. I would usually go outside to watch. I also noticed that few of the veterans would be out watching fireworks. One veteran of Korea who has now died said that he didn’t really like fire crackers because they sounded too much like gun fire. Two other friends of mine, both Vietnam vets in their late 60s, have said the same thing. So they make it a point to avoid being outside during the celebrations. My dad has felt the same way for years, which would explain why my mom was very upset with me when me and a few friends lit off a whole roll of firecrackers in a metal trash can in the alley behind our house when I was in junior high. I probably would have gotten it worse if dad wasn’t at work at the time. Even though my dad loved bright colored fireworks that didn’t make a lot of noise, he never bought fire crackers or cherry bombs. It wasn’t until a few years ago I realized the extent of some of his experiences during Vietnam and why he doesn’t like fire crackers that sound like cannons or gunshots. I had a few friends from my teenage years who are veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq and they are avoiding fireworks too.
I’m not advocating against lighting off fireworks to celebrate Independence Day. But I do advocate being more considerate of those who have bad memories of being at war. And it’s not just war veterans who are spooked by loud fireworks. Victims of gun crimes and most household pets can be too. When I was a kid some of the neighborhood bullies threw some firecrackers at one of our dogs and that dog spent the rest of her life wound up and spooked every early July and even during our frequent summer lightning storms. But I can’t really claim to be Holy Joe about my fireworks and me and my friends used to blow up apples and ant hills. Once we even blew up a baseball. But we are lucky we didn’t blow ourselves up. Even an immature little snot like I was at age thirteen will learn eventually. And I think as more veterans talk about their experiences in war and how Independence Day can cause them unneeded anxiety, we will become more considerate of those who were in the military.