It’s the time of year again that we celebrate our country’s independence. All around our bountiful nation, every citizen of the United States of America glories in our freedom, enjoying our picnics, our gatherings and our firework extravaganzas, lighting up our world with the message that “We are America and We are Beautiful.”
Unless, maybe, if you are one of our service men and women. For some of our veterans, Independence Day is no picnic. The fireworks we find so incredible can be very traumatizing to some of those who have served.
Social media picked up on one veteran’s concern by spreading the word. In less than 24 hours, more than 100,000 people shared the Facebook post that read “Combat veteran lives here, please be courteous with fireworks.” The photo, which is held by an anonymous bearded veteran, went viral Tuesday and Wednesday. It was an excellent way to raise awareness of a problem of which many may not have been aware.
For those who have survived mortar attacks, bombings, and explosions, the noise fireworks make frequently mimic those noises veterans heard while defending our nation. The problem is not just limited to those veterans who suffer from PTSD either. Many of our veterans are conditioned to react to the sounds of battle. In the simplest of terms, the body’s reaction to a stressful event is the flood of “Fight or Flight” hormones. The flood or surge of hormones incapacitates areas and functions of the brain that include logical thought. So while the veteran may intellectually know that he/she is hearing fireworks, his/her automatic response is saying something different. Think about your own “startle” reaction when you hear a loud noise…
And while large firework displays can definitely be an issue, more disturbing are the backyard bottle rockets, M80’s and other smaller projectiles that go off suddenly and without warning. According to John E. Mundt, clinical psychologist at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago, most vets tend to be less bothered by the larger fireworks displays, and more disturbed by the “smaller fireworks that start getting used weeks ahead of July 4th and continue getting used for weeks after the holiday sometimes.” (See article). One of the more traumatizing fireworks is the type that whistles and then booms, according to one veteran.
For those veterans that are disturbed by fireworks, Veteran Affairs recommends using noise-cancelling headphones. Ear plugs can help as well, although they only muffle the sound, not remove it entirely. Some veterans chose to spend the day away from fireworks.
Facebook has actually done some good in raising awareness of this issue. If fireworks bother you, let those around you know. Your friends and neighbors may not realize that, instead of honoring you with this celebration, they are actually causing stress. And if you are not a veteran, think about your July 4th celebration. Considering limiting your appreciation of our nation’s birthday to the actual day, in order to honor those who made it possible.