4th of July From A Veteran's Vantage Point
Vietnam veteran Julius P. McCann shares his perspective about the traumatizing effects 4th of July fireworks can have on combat veterans.
It’s already starting – the anxiety, moodiness and grief caused by the sounds of fireworks as the Fourth of July nears. I was forever changed 46 years ago in Vietnam, fighting a war whose purpose I wasn’t sure of. The sounds, sights and smells of combat haunt me now more than ever before. Something triggers a sense that takes me back like it was yesterday.
My family knows something is going on, especially at this time of year. They see the anxiety and dread of the emotional roller coaster that is around the corner. The evening of July Fourth is always spent with the windows closed and the volume of the TV or stereo on high, as I try to distract myself from the bangs and booms from thousands of fireworks filling the night air. And it’s not just on the Fourth; fireworks have already started and will last for a week or more after the holiday.
For many combat veterans, fireworks resemble the sounds of small arms and machine gun fire, mortar and rocket attacks and exploding land mines. They trigger memories of the subsequent cries of pain, the silence of death, the smell of blood and the feelings of fear and anxiety. This is no way to live, no way to celebrate a national holiday and no way to treat our country’s veterans.
Give us a break, please. Let the towns, villages and Buffalo Bisons provide the fireworks displays. I can handle those because they happen in one location, from one direction, at a set time. I can control the anxiety, compartmentalize it and move on. But being surrounded by thousands of small explosions in rapid sequence makes this difficult. As a result, July Fourth is anything but a celebration.
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