July 4th is an Independence day NOT for all...

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 2:53 PM

The "Minefield" explodes with glittering red tips. "War and Peace" unloads alternating rounds of color and fire. "The Torrent" promises "360 degrees of pyro " in a spectacular barrage.

As Americans stock up on Fourth of July fireworks with battlefield themes, those with actual war experience are adopting safety plans instead. Combat veterans in Oregon and southwest Washington say they are heading to quiet campsites, small family gatherings or the basement with earphones. They'll pre-stage their dreams before bed, visualizing different endings.

According to a military psychologist Jim Sardo, who manages the PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), depression, anxiety and drinking all spike around the Fourth of July and this time of the year is very stressful period. The Clinical Team and Substance Abuse Services at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center claim that unexpected bursts of noise, summer heat, crowds, traffic, forced gaiety and coolers of cold beer all contribute.

But the Fourth of July also stands as a collective reminder of both the patriotism and pain in military service. Many veterans are bothered less by the booms, Sardo says, than the deeper questions the displays raise about what it means to go to war and lose a limb, friends or a view of the world as a healthy place.

From first hand experience of a Multnomah County sheriff's deputy Ken Kraft, who earned a Bronze Star in Iraq, it is horrific holiday. He confesses "I hear patriotic music or the Pledge of Allegiance, I start crying. It's a respect and reverence for the rights we have and the really good people trying to defend this country. But I'm not pro-war, and anyone who is, has never been to war. War changes who you are and how you are and how you react to things. My wife still grieves for the person who went there. Because somebody else came home."

On the last family vacation before he deployed, U.S. Army Capt. Kraft drove his wife, Brenda, their children and grandchildren to Disneyland for the Fourth of July. The next fireworks he saw were over Camp Slayer, the former Al Radwaniyah Presidential complex and Baath Party enclave near the Baghdad airport... the impact of these fireworks on veterans like him are obvious.

by Abhi Batra

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