Independence Day, Fireworks, and Tradition

| June 29, 2015
Categories: Op-Eds

Veterans and fireworks…c’mon, seriously? If they bother you, we get it, and that sucks. But let’s not make it a big o woe is me event to garner sympathy. Get some earpro and some quality time with your wank sock until the noise if over. If this piece gives you a case of the ass, that’s okay; it wouldn’t be the first time you’ve disagreed with us.Nor the first time you were wrong.


We’ve officially hit the season of hamburgers, hotdogs, beer, parades, fireworks and gunfire. The kids are out of school and running rampant through the neighborhoods. While we didn’t have hamburgers and hotdogs in the beginning, at the very first public reading of the Declaration of Independence there were fireworks, bonfires, and gunfire.

Using drink for the celebration officially started the next year (during the war) when George Washington issued double rum rations to all of his fighting men.


John Adams wrote that Independence Day,

“…ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other…”

Why the gunfire? That tradition is far older than the birth of our nation and is still widespread around the world. I was in Iraq for Saddam Hussein’s 66th birthday back in OIF I, and I thought the entire world had gone to shit because there was so much gunfire and so many tracers in the air. We’ve all seen the videos from the middle east of celebratory gunfire (usually the ones where people are hurt).

To this day in America, we honor our fallen fighting men with a Three-Volley Salute. Other occasions call for cannons or artillery salutes, which uniformed people commonly call a ’21 Gun Salute’ even though the actual number varies by the occasion.


I do not advocate spontaneous celebratory fire because of how dangerous it can be, and as our population density is further increased, so is the risk. But why is it around? You have to remember that until relatively recent history, fireworks were both rare and expensive. Ammunition can readily provide a similar blast and bang with minimal cost. Even in states where you are limited to snakes, sparklers, and fountains, you can still purchase ammo.

I loved the Fourth of July growing up. Mine, my father’s, and my sister’s birthday all fall right before Independence Day and the entire week felt like a celebration. Lots of food, cake, and parties followed up with watching a parade and then staying up late to see a fireworks show. Traffic was always terrible afterward but I usually slept right through that portion.


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As a veteran, the tone changed for me a bit. In the weeks leading up to and beyond Independence Day, even in states where it is illegal, you’ll hear the cracks and booms of fireworks. Regularly I find myself listening to see if it has the cadence and report of gunfire and occasionally my wife (a veteran herself) will inquire, “are those gunshots or fireworks?”

There’s been a recent trend of yard signs about fireworks. On my personal Facebook page, I’ve seen them pop up regularly. Here are some examples:



Like with many things, I’m sure the intentions are mostly good but I don’t view them as a positive. First, probably anyone that’s both going to take the time to read and give you some consideration, you actually know. If it’s such a big deal–how about, you know, go talk to them instead of putting up some passive sign?

I live more than 15 miles from the largest fireworks display in my area and I can still hear that noise, sometimes so reminiscent of artillery fire, from my bedroom. If I were so inclined (I’m not), maybe I’d actually talk whoever is in charge of the display about my sensitivity to fireworks. That would be selfish and stupid, of course; nobody has to stop celebrating the 4th with fireworks, no matter how much they might bother me, and nobody has to not use fireworks around veterans, period. If fireworks bother me, I need to learn to handle MY issue with them. These “damaged veteran” signs smack more of “look at me, I’m so distressed” attention-seeking behavior than they do of any desire to actually fix a problem.


Furthermore, the wording makes it seem like all veterans have a problem with fireworks. This simply isn’t true, else they wouldn’t have been used for celebration the entire time we’ve been a nation. On the flip side, sudden loud noises and flashes can spark anxiety for lots of people (my newborn doesn’t enjoy them very much, for example).

Just because you received your aversion ostensibly from combat, that shouldn’t make you a special snowflake.

Color me insensitive or “old school” if you want, but I believe your personal problems to be your own. I’m not saying “suck it up” but I am saying that perhaps an individual solution (like putting in earplugs, listening to music, or going camping) is better than attempting to curtail celebratory activity. I fail to see much difference between putting up one of these signs or one that says, “Burn Survivor Lives Here—Please be Courteous with Cookouts”. Or “Dog Bite Survivor Lives Here — Please Don’t Walk Dogs Past this House.” Or even one of these:

A horrible example of microaggression: asking someone if they've been to Europe. Photo credit



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  1. Meg

    This isn’t about community fireworks displays; people can avoid them if they want to. It’s about the random, dangerous ones that are set off in neighborhoods that already freak out a lot of people and animals. Most people aren’t aware that sudden loud noises can bother people with PTSD. Let’s encourage them to think about it. What is wrong with being considerate towards your neighbors?

  2. Dave Emme

    Problem is there are quite a few veterans that have PTSD issues and fireworks are a big time trigger for many. It is not asking people to not celebrate or not use fireworks. I am not going to go up and down my street knocking on doors requesting people not too shoot off their fireworks. I can imagine many might have the same reaction as this article which can turn into an argument about the whole issue which no one wants. The sign is not designed for all veterans but rather those who have those kinds of problems.

  3. Jeff

    Great Article, I simply don’t know why the victimhood thing got into our Military. 30 year VET, NSW, 60% rated. I say go for it and Celebrate !!!!! F-ing Potatos !

    • Dave Emme

      So okay. I was wounded twice in combat in seven weeks-the first and only seven weeks I was in Iraq. First one from a mortar attack and the second one from an IED that left shrapnel in my brain and a prosthetic skull about the size of my hand on the left side of my head with constant headaches and sometimes earaches, tooth aches, and eyeaches(all places that were injured by shrapnel). So am I wallowing in victimhood when fireworks become a trigger to my PTSD?

      • Mad Duo Merrill

        No, you aren’t “wallowing in victimhood” just because fireworks are a trigger. I outright say in the article that they bother me sometimes too–expecting a change of behavior simply because you are a vet is the issue at hand. Summed up in the last paragraph.

  4. Mark Williamson

    Thank you.

    I always flinched when I saw these signs because all the real combat vets I knew were not the kind of men to make their own problems something for others to deal with.

  5. TheFox

    I need a sign that says “combat veteran lives here, loves God, guns and country. Please feel free to shoot off fireworks, likes shiny things” but that is a bit much for a sign so I’ll just put one that says “America, fuck yeah!!!”


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