Independence Day, Veterans, and Loud Fireworks

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.


Independence Day, Loud Fireworks, Veterans, and Mental Health


Indepence Day in USA is only a few days away.  For most of Americans it means being more mindful of veterans living and dead alike.  For my readers in the UK, it probably means the colonials’ celebration of high treason 🙂  Regardless, over the next few days there will be many fireworks displays, barbecues, programs remembering veterans, and so on.  For the large part, these are a few days of celebration and reflection.

Yet, for some it is also a stressful time.  For many veterans the loud booms of fireworks and the pop of firecrackers can bring out bad memories of being in a war.  I didn’t realize how bad this was for many veterans until the last few years when my dad, an Air Force pilot during Vietnam, would make it a point to avoid fireworks displays and sounds by spending the 4th at the family acreage.  And he quickly admits he had it easier than most military members.

I’m beginning to see people of my age bracket and younger who did tours in Afghanistan and Iraq avoid fireworks too.  At the lower income apartment I live in shooting off fireworks of any kind is specifically banned right in our lease agreement.  As I’ve lived in this complex for several years, I saw some World War 2 and Korea veterans just stay in their apartments on the 4th.  Now that those men have died it’s the Vietnam era men that are avoiding the fireworks and loud noises.  And I didn’t realize what an issue it was for these veterans until a few of them started talking about their personal experiences.

With my schizophrenia I am mildly irritated by the loud booms of firecrackers but I do love the flashes of colors that the night fireworks have.  And they aren’t that loud.  But I also don’t have the bad memories of being in war that loud booms and explosives can bring back that many of my veteran friends and family have.  I just make myself mindful of  the generations of veterans, those living and those deceased, who too often suffered in silence with bad memories of war brought back by some of the ways we in USA celebrate our country’s beginnings.  I don’t favor banning fireworks, but I would love to see more and more people and public fireworks displays refrain from using the really loud fireworks that sound like gunfire and cannons, if for no other reason out of consideration for the veterans.