The Rockets Red Glare, Bombs Bursting in Air…
Dedicated to all veterans and our service men and women who are overseas fighting for our freedom on this holiday.
The Fourth of July is a special day in every American’s heart. We stood together officially for the first time all those years ago and made our fateful decision to stand as one nation. We have defended that decision ever since. We celebrate it now by enjoying some of the more relaxing freedoms our country offers- BBQs, picnics, fun in the water, and last but not least, fireworks. We commemorate our heritage every year around this time by taking to the streets and blowing things up or setting off artillery shells that let loose volleys of color. As Americans we take this time to really sit back and relax, but for those who have defended the freedoms that all Americans enjoy, it’s a time of great stress.
Veterans find the Fourth of July a time to reflect. A time to remember what was given, the blood that was shed, and the friends that were lost so that others could flourish, prosper, and enjoy freedom. This tends to push veterans back to a combat mindset. Veterans minds tend to retrace events and think of the fallen friends as they take part in the festivities and fun. The most popular festivity, fireworks, can cause some very real distress for veterans. What is meant to be a spectacle or entertainment is considered by most veterans to be a very real reminder of combat.
July 3rd, 2005, I was a Private First Class in the Army. I had managed to secure leave from Kabul, Afghanistan. I hit the ground in Houston July 4th. I was sitting in the garage of my dad’s house, talking with my friends who had come out to see me. My dad not knowing any better, playfully rolled an M-60 firecracker under the garage door. Before my brain had time to process what the loud crack was, I had tackled one of my best friends and was screaming at the top of my lungs for the distance and direction for where the fire was coming from. In an instant I was back in Afghanistan. Incredibly embarrassed I helped my friend to his feet, turned the chairs over that I had flipped, and sat there as quietly as I could as the others attempted to understand what had just happened. Later that night as the artillery shells erupted into the night sky, I was drenched in a cold sweat. Something that should have been such an enjoyable time was truly marred by the fear and anxiety I felt as the fireworks went on into the night.
To this day the fourth of July requires a lot of mental preparation on my part. I have to continually remind myself that it is safe and people are just having a good time. I have to prepare for the loud explosions and pops that will be heard throughout the night. I find myself taking a lot of deep breaths and trying to calm down. The strings of black cats exploding sounds just like machine gun fire and my mind begins to settle into a very uncomfortable state. The smell of gunpowder always seems to hang in the air and triggers many of my combat memories.
However, as difficult as the evening of the 4th can be, I love that on this night Americans come together and really have a good time. I love that on this night it is popular to be a patriot, as it always should be. The difficulties that we as veterans face when it comes to dealing with the loud explosions and pops, is just another small challenge that we are more than willing to endure to honor this great nation. Just be mindful of your local veterans and don’t roll any firecrackers towards them.