Fourth of July fireworks might be a celebration of America’s independence but can be a time of great anxiety for veterans.
“How ironic and gut-wrenching that the very soldiers who sacrificed so we could celebrate our freedoms are the ones who suffer most on this day,” said author Welby O’Brien in his book “Love Our Vets: Restoring Hope for Families of Veterans with PTSD.”
A local National Guard soldier told a Chronicle reporter that he found himself “ranging” the fireworks at a Fourth display in Stanfield, Wash., where he had gone to visit friends. He said mortars launched during his 2004-05 deployment to Iraq were “walked in” to their target with a change in range every time one was detonated. He found himself unconsciously trying to gauge the distance of the “incoming rounds.”
The soldier also said hearing fireworks makes him feel deeply saddened because they revive memories of explosions at war that took the lives of several friends.
Another National Guard member said it is difficult to deal with fireworks at planned displays, but even more difficult to cope with the unexpected blasts that occur in the days preceding and following the holiday.
Welby said veterans can find ways to cope with the help of friends and family members on the Fourth and provided these tips:
• Treat your body with comforts such as a soothing massage, favorite music, good friends and great food.
• Tune out loud noises by watching a good movie or cranking up music to drown out the sounds of fireworks. Perhaps use a good pair of earplugs at bedtime.
• Stay sheltered indoors, far away from loud noises and lights in the sky.
• Sit quietly with loved ones who will listen when you talk and respect your silence when you don’t.
• Leave town and go somewhere quiet.