Fireworks may be the signature event of the 4th of July, but for those veterans who showed their extreme patriotism by serving on the front line, it may be the most emotionally painful day of the year. Research findings differ, but up to 20% of the more than 2.5 million veterans and troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan are believed to have developed PTSD. “With PTSD, it’s an invisible wound. It’s a real physical change in our brain,” says Jeremy Clark, a former technical sergeant for the US Air Force who has both PTSD and TBI. He served in Iraq and was traumatized by the explosions of 14 roadside bombs during his service. Sam Deeds, a Marine Corps vet, says, “It’s like I’m getting blown up all over again.” A website (Military with PTSD) requests donations to provide free yard signs to veterans that say “Combat veteran lives here, please be courteous with fireworks.”
For non-veterans, fireworks can still be dangerous. The purchase of fireworks is illegal in some states and, even in states where the purchase of fireworks are legal, they should not be lit without proper knowledge on how to prevent injuries. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 230 people a year “celebrate” Independence Day with a visit to the emergency room because of fireworks-related injuries. To prevent injury from happening, the non-profit National Council on Fireworks Safety and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission both have instructions on how to use firework as safely as possible.
(In this post, I have talked about the dangers of fireworks. However, I think most veterans would say that fireworks are both a patriotic and enjoyable way to celebrate Independence Day. They probably wish they could still enjoy the fireworks on July 4th. Clark and Deeds have both found ways to prevent the noise and visuals that lead them to an automatic fight-or-flight reaction. I very much hope that vets with this issue can find ways to enjoy the holiday without exposing themselves to triggers.)