Monday, August 02, 2021

Op-Ed: Give combat vets a break from fireworks

by TOM EVANS/Special to The Press
| July 16, 2021 1:00 AM

This vet agrees with Jesse Engel in his “Guest Opinion,” regarding, “Turn off the fireworks.” Hopefully this will offer more clarity?

I too am a Vietnam combat vet. I however have no problem with “Legal" Firework Shows on the 4th, as long as one fires everything on that same evening of the Fourth of July, but ONLY on the 4th! As my fellow vets, I respect what the 4th represents… I’m as patriotic as most, I love my country, fought for it, bled for it, nevertheless, the 4th is the 4th! Many of us (vets) choose not to attend these firework gatherings. Why, because we have personally experienced the “Real fireworks of combat” and those fireworks were bigger and brighter than you will see at a fireworks show and usually represented a bad outcome for us. Been there, done that!

What I and many other vets have issues with… those firing them off late at night on July 2, 3rd, 5th, 6th, etc. These self-centered inconsiderate individuals will fire one or two rockets around or after midnight, waking those of us trying to sleep…why, because they are inconsiderate, only thinking of themselves! That one explosion waking others, makes for a bad night for many of us. Startled awake, adrenalin pumping, it can take hours for a body to return to sleep.

VA has shown we have one of the highest concentrations of veterans living in our area. Great having all these professionals, if there is ever a need. Years ago I was asked, “What happens to combat vets when they hear some jerk firing this explosion late at night while trying to sleep?” Speaking for this vet, I am immediately awake automatically moving while listening for the next “thump sound” (sound of mortar tubes), concentrating on where the next blast might land. The fact I am not in a war zone is not my first thought after being rudely awakened.

My alertness once saved my life and this hyper vigilance is trained/drilled into us. There is not a switch we can turn off, nor does therapy or drugs fix it…it’s in us, a part of us, like our DNA. When you are trained to listen for and have experienced night after night of being shelled/mortared by the enemy, you know explosive sounds usually represented death for someone and likewise has us moving even before we are awake. I have no problem with loud noises or things going off while I am awake, it’s that single Boom after I am asleep after midnight that triggers me/us back…

So please, have your fireworks on July 4, but not on other LATE nights… Please give your combat vets a break. Thank you for your consideration. Thank you Jesse Engel for first addressing this issue.

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Tom Evans, Tet 68’, is a resident of Hayden Lake.