Why veterans and fireworks don’t mix

By , July 2, 2010 4:04 pm

It’s that time of year again.  The celebration of our country’s freedom.  The 4th of July remains one of my favorite holidays and, yet, I have a confession to make.

I hate fireworks.

O.K.  Hate is kind of harsh.  I strongly dislike fireworks.  I’m not talking sparklers or the kiddy pack from Black Cat.  Nope, what I dislike are the “BOOM” or “Pop.Pop.Pop” fireworks that stop me in my tracks for a half-second as I survey my surroundings.  Many don’t realize that fireworks, a tool used to celebrate our freedom and those that fought for freedom, sound exactly like mortars and gunfire.

MORTARS AND GUNFIRE!  Oh the irony.  Let me first be clear to state that I’ve never faced direct gunfire or watched a mortar fall.  I spent my last deployment in Baghdad on a protected Forward Operating Base. Protected, but not sound proof.  There wasn’t a day I spent there that I didn’t hear gunfire or explosions. Some were close enough to shake my bed as I slept, while others were far enough to cause a slight pause before my next bite of chow.

A few months after returning from my last deployment, a new hospital only a half-mile from our house celebrated their grand opening with a surprise fireworks display.  I was in bed asleep, when BOOOMMM.  I sat up in bed.  BOOOOOM.  BOOOOM.  BOOOOM.  Tearing off the sheets I ran to our spare bedroom just as the crackle of the flares hit the sky.  As I reached the window and saw the massive display of color right above the house, my heart slowed back to its normal beat.  In that moment, I understood why veterans never flock to fireworks displays.  Fireworks stop my pulse for a brief second, but imagine the reaction of an infantry veteran when surprised by an unexpected explosion, a combat survivor when the rattle of a fireworks display takes him back to a fire fight.

Do I want all fireworks displays cancelled?  Fireworks banned in the United States?  No.  Continue to celebrate with bombs bursting in air on the 4th of July, however, please, please, only on the 4th of July. Respect veterans that fought for freedom by saving fireworks for the national holiday and only that day.  Oh and don’t worry about me on Sunday.  About the time the 1812 Overture plays, I’ll be snuggled on the couch watching it on television.  Happy Independence Day!

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