Anniversary dates are common for some service members. They may recall the date they enlisted, basic training, their first deployment, their last deployment, injuries, losses, and even retirement.
I know there are other anniversaries too–the first date, wedding date, the list could go on.
This time of year, within the last couple of years, I recall a not so great anniversary–a trip that changed our lives–our 4th of July vacation.
We were taking our first family vacation…with another family, and we were so excited! The kids had all the snacks you could imagine, we had a great hotel, and we were going to the zoo and the see fireworks.
I honestly didn’t worry (at the time) about the adventure to see fireworks.
As the day progressed, I could tell Sam was starting to get a little uneasy. It was hot, we weren’t allowed to bring snacks in around the zoo/fireworks area, so we made a trip back to the car. We had to get chairs, blankets, and food for the fireworks show…
And then people started to show up. Everyone in the Metro East area. It was crowded. A real gem of a person set some fireworks off in the crowd which made Sam and I a little uneasy.
More people packed in, Sam became quiet, withdrawn. It took a very long time (in that moment) to realize that Sam was struggling with his surroundings. Sam was with us, but he wasn’t. He was going back and forth from being surrounded by his family and some of his best friends to moments of war.
Fireworks can be a trigger for some veterans (read some). Last year’s experience was even worse because on more than one occasion Sam said, “it is just like Baghdad.” The fireworks were very close in a neighborhood area. There was little to no sleep that night. There were tears.
I get uneasy around the 4th. This year we’ve decided to stay home, and attempt a somewhat quiet evening at home. I’m already trying to think of things we can do at the house, or movies we can watch to avoid being out and about.
I know what you might be thinking…but he should be okay, he has Memphis.
Last year Memphis was with us, and it was still overwhelming for Sam.
I’m not saying people who enjoy fireworks are bad, or people who choose to purchase massive amounts of fireworks and set them off at their home or near their home are horrible…I’m saying it is helpful to be cautious about our veteran population.
What might seem like fun and hours of enjoyment can be hours of misery for a veteran (again, some, not all).
I’ve read articles telling veterans to not get a sign (a yard sign that reads “Combat Veteran Lives Here, Please Be Courteous with Fireworks”), get earplugs. If you ask me, that’s like telling someone with PTSD to just get over it.
I also disagree with what some folks write or say about these signs being an attention getter for veterans. This isn’t a means for people to pity veterans and feel sorry for them. This is just about being aware of surroundings, one’s environment, and sensitivity to loud sounds, explosion-like sounds.
And yet there are people who will say “just get over it.”
So, this Fourth I look forward to a nice evening. Time with my husband, maybe some pizza, a movie. Maybe even Netflix.
For those of you who are traveling, I hope you have a safe and Happy 4th of July.
This was a partial family photo from last year’s 4th of July events. We were able to visit with some of our best friends at their home. What we didn’t expect to go on most of the night were the fireworks, which sounded like they were in the house and right next to the house (and they were not), which put Sam in Baghdad, as he stated many times that night.