More pets go missing on the 4th of July than any other day of the year. And as I sit in my house every Independence Day night with the volume turned all the way up on my television to help mask the thunderous booming, watching the dogs shiver and tremble as the sounds of explosions shake the walls and windows until well after midnight, this statistic does not surprise me.
As I sat on my couch this year, comforting my confused and terrified pets, I thought of what a nightmare this "patriotic" holiday must be for combat veterans. There is literally no escape from the cacophony of explosions in my little neighborhood, so I can't imagine how horrifying it must be for one of these returning soldiers. Fireworks can trigger panic attacks and flashbacks for combat vets, causing some to relive experiences they would rather forget. It seems a cruel and terrible thing to do to someone who fought for the nation whose birth this holiday is supposed to be celebrating. And it's not just vets that have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. According to The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs it is estimated that eight out of 100 people in this country, over 5.2 million Americans in a given year, suffer from some form of PTSD at some point.
The bombs bursting in air lasted into the wee hours of the morning in my normally sleepy neighborhood, and I was appalled. These were not cherry bombs or sparklers, these were professional-looking elaborate displays that literally illuminated the entire sky, the sounds of which could be felt in one's chest and shook the walls of a perfectly sturdy home. Part of me wanted to go to the 50 percent off fireworks sale the day after and load up on rockets with which to terrorize my hung-over neighbors, but all I could think about were the wide-eyed dogs I comforted all night, and the morning's ever-expanding list posted online of dogs that went missing the night before.
I don't know who decided it was a patriotic act to essentially re-enact the sounds of war in one's own backyard in an effort to celebrate the birth of our nation. I have nothing against fireworks and have fond memories of enjoying some spectacular displays, but my neighbors have ruined that for me over the years. Part of the magic of this holiday for me as a child was the ritual of loading up the car and driving to the local mall (or "the" Mall in D.C.) with a picnic basket full of goodies, spreading out a blanket and watching the fireworks display with family and friends. This was great fun, and it never occurred to any of us that it might be more fun to get drunk off our butts and simply set off hundreds of rockets in the middle of our street until 3:00 in the morning and make all of our neighbors hate us instead. I'm not sure when everything shifted to focus only on what makes us as individuals happy without regard for the people who live all around us, but it really disturbs me.
If you've ever seen the movie Born on the Fourth of July, you'll remember the parade scene which shows the veteran riding along the parade route, flinching and twitching as firecrackers go off all around him. There is a place for fireworks, and that place is not in your backyard or the middle of your neighborhood street. Those who wish to avoid the sounds of a battlefield would appreciate it if people would be a bit more aware of the fact that others live nearby, some of whom lived with the terrorizing sounds of warfare on a daily basis in a faraway country in service to this nation, and struggle each day with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These brave men and women who endured unspeakable horrors have earned the right to expect peace and quiet in their own homes every night of the year, and those celebrating the birth of the nation these soldiers fought so valiantly to defend should show a little more respect. And a little more consideration for regular folk would be nice too.