The 4th of July is a time for celebration and revelry. With loud explosions, bright lights, fantastic visual displays, and as much barbecue as you can handle, we remember the Declaration of Independence and the brave soldiers that won the war that gave us this great country! But for the men and women who have recently served, this holiday is met with trepidation; not because they don’t want to celebrate this great nation, but because of their PTSD…
According to recent statistics from the VA (updated on June 17th, 2015), about 7-8% of the U.S. population will have PTSD at some point in their lives. But for men and women who’ve seen combat, PTSD is all the more likely.
It is estimated that, at this time, the following percentages of veteran groups are still suffering from PTSD:
Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom
The Gulf War
The Vietnam War
But what does this mean for the 4th of July festivities?
It means that there is a large part of our population who will be experiencing the symptoms of PTSD on Independence Day. The VA explains how the sound of a car backfiring can trigger PTSD symptoms, but Russell Cook, a wounded Army veteran, says that the fireworks that are set off throughout the month of July affect him in the same way.
Cook told the Tampa Tribune that “It’s hell… It’s like I was back in the worst part of combat with bullets flying and bombs going off.”
Other veterans are saying the same thing. In this interview of Henry Ximenez, another Army vet, Ximenez discusses his reactions to fireworks. He says that when he hears an unexpected blast, he squats down and puts his hands over his head, as if he were taking fire. Furthermore, he says that oftentimes he is laughed at for being so seemingly afraid of fireworks when really, it’s his combat memories that he’s reacting to.
But veterans are not asking people to stop celebrating, they’re merely asking their neighbors to be more courteous of the stress that people suffering from PTSD go through on the 4th.
One veteran in Florida came up with a solution, one that wouldn’t discourage people from celebrating, but one that could seriously help veterans across the country. He came up with a lawn sign. It’s simple, to the point, and comes from a place of mutual understanding. It reads: “Combat veteran lives here / Please be courteous with fireworks.” The sign was then distributed for free to interested veterans through the non-profit group Military With PTSD via their Facebook page.
It’s a simple and friendly reminder that there are men and women who have served our country that are as proud to be Americans as the rest of us; they just can’t celebrate in the same way. The sign doesn’t ask for revelers to abstain from launching off rockets or firecrackers, it merely asks for courtesy.
So if you see a veteran this 4th of July, make sure you’re courteous and offer them a friendly burger or a brat. If you see someone crouched down in the grass after a beautiful, high arching firework has lit up the night sky, think about the deadly explosions that have triggered their reaction. And if you see someone with one of these signs on their lawn, take a moment to think about the sacrifices they’ve made for our freedoms.