While the 4th of July is a time to appreciate sacrifices and to recognize the freedom that was generously bestowed upon Americans, it can be easy for civilians who did not have to fight overseas to overlook what the explosions can mean to veterans.
Unanticipated and shocking noises like fireworks can resemble sounds of battlefield explosions; and as such, fireworks are common triggers for veterans of combat who are experiencing the lasting effects of PTSD. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that between 11-20% of veterans who served in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars were identified to have lasting effects of PTSD.
Traumatic events took place for many soldiers overseas and loud noises are often associated with unwelcome flashbacks, such as losing a close friend from an attack. Pushing former soldiers into violent recounts of terror and war should be avoided at all costs, according to Helpful Outcome.
Soldiers are taught to defensively respond right away if they believe that a threat is nearby; so when fireworks are haphazardly shot off before July 4, it would be unusual for a former soldier to not jump to attention. Traumatic flashbacks are formidable and can stimulate visual memories in addition to memories evoked by all of the senses, such as causing former soldiers to recall the stark powdery scent that fireworks leave behind that resembles an M4 that has been recently fired.
Fortunately, there are ways that the public, as well as neighbors, can help. Combat veterans have been putting out signs for the front yard that state, “Combat veteran in this neighborhood. Please be considerate with fireworks.” This is an effective method of alerting the neighbors while still remaining polite.
Discussions among neighbors can be as easy as a simple heads up, saying that fireworks will soon be going off; but by doing so the neighborhood is accomplishing a lot more. Helping a veteran is a small feat that can yield insurmountable respect for those who fought overseas for the country.
The fireworks that are troubling and prompting the PTSD are those that are set off unpredictably. Typically, fireworks are legal between 9:00 AM and midnight on July 4, however, local decrees often prohibit the use during other days and times.
Rose Burberry-Martin, marketing director for Chisholm, Chisholm, and Kilpatrick LTD law firm works with many veterans who have PTSD and are triggered by fireworks. She emphasized the importance of being courteous of veterans who are provoked into recalling violent memories by the fireworks and stated, “Veterans fought to give Americans freedom to decide whether or not they should set off fireworks, and they don’t want to discriminate against that. But neighbors, family, and friends should be respectful about aimlessly setting off fireworks without warning as they can force a veteran to unexpectedly relive horrific memories.”
Fortunately, Americans have the freedom to choose; and by limiting the use of illegal fireworks citizens can demonstrate appreciation to the soldiers that fought for this freedom.