Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays because it encompasses the spirit of America in exuding the freedoms we enjoy.
Unfortunately, some of our families will have a vastly different experience with the rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air.
Our family has been very sensory conscious over the years. But even with these considerations, I’ve come to understand my children’s experiences through one of my own.
Let me share a personal experience.
On Independence Day four years ago I realized that I might indeed have some form of PTSD from my experience in Afghanistan.
That night as I was laying down to go to bed, someone down the street decided to explode a very large firecracker; like an M80.
For the next seven hours I tried going back to sleep but just lye there, shaking, heart pounding and I couldn’t control it. I didn’t sleep that night and was really affected by it, though I kept rationalizing that it was nothing.
For so many veterans like myself, this is one of the realities of deploying to the AOR. I was not at some remote FOB, I had not been directly shot at or earned my Combat Action Badge. But the loud boom and ground shaking does affect you.
Stressors of rocket attacks or car bombs stays with you, even when you bury it inside.
Now every time I think of fireworks or loud noises, I’m reminded of this experience. I’m not alone.
Growing up in Southern California, I had friends who had issues when an aftershock followed one of our earthquakes. It put them on-edge and some really had challenges coping.
These things make it more apparent that we should be sensitive to the impact some can have on this day.
Whether it’s the flushing of toilets, the shrill of an alarm or, yes, even the local fireworks display, for children with autism and other special needs, sudden loud noises are terrorizing and can leave traumatic sensory marks.
As we celebrate freedom and independence, please take a moment to have situational awareness and be mindful on how fireworks, music or other sounds can impact our special families, veterans and even animals.
If you have pets, remember that some of them have acutely sensitive hearing and fireworks can be painful. Please consider this and keep them inside if possible.
If you’re buying fireworks, consider avoiding the ones that make the loudest explosions and opt for ones that offer more color and less ‘bang.’
If you’re going to a fireworks display consider having some earbuds or headphones at the ready to help dampen the sounds
If attending a party or gathering with other people, talk with the host about any issues or get the itinerary of any loud events during that time.
As we celebrate our Independence let’s do it in a safe and enjoyable way for everyone.