To most Americans, celebrating with their families on the Fourth, fireworks represent one gigantic surge of pyrotechnic patriotism, awing small children and grownups alike as they soar into the air and explode with fabulous colors and ear-popping, ground-shaking reverberations. It's America's birthday, after all, but in place of the cake and candles we get...concerts, barbecues, parades and FIREWORKS!
For the combat veteran, however...and only approximately 11% of our population has served in the military...fireworks can remind them a little too much of the sights and sounds of combat. Many combat veterans, especially those with PTSD, find themselves dreading the Fourth and the fireworks in particular; and often find themselves unable to explain this (satisfactorily) to family and friends. Quite a few vets make plans beforehand to "head to their bunkers," and not come out until it's over. Others talk about how their own veteran dads, growing up, spent the holiday every year, in a haze of drugs or alcohol, waiting out the celebration. Some veterans feel bad about not being able to join in the celebration, but they can't; and some families of affected combat veterans wonder whether to leave their veteran home while they go enjoy the show...or miss the celebration themselves while not being able to bridge the gap with what their loved one is experiencing.
To support these traumatized veterans, support groups have put up websites like the http://www.healingcombattrauma.com to help these vets express how they feel and help them be heard so they can create awareness and deal better with this trauma:
“A great comment in a panel discussion by veterans on re-integration, where one veteran was discussing how being asked the wrong questions can put him on the defensive and elicit an undesired response, thanks in part to military training and the normal reaction to being backed into a corner. "When rifles are no longer involved, words can become your bullets," he said.
For anyone who's ever been on either the "giving" or the "receiving" side of a difficult, heated conversation where it felt like life or identity was at stake, it's easy to understand exactly what he meant. It's also, obviously, not a prescription for harmonious communication that resolves issues effectively. For that, very different communication styles and skills are necessary. We try to cover that here from time to time, when we find someone with a worthwhile and constructive point of view -- and experience in the trenches, either as a veteran or a spouse of a veteran with PTSD.”
By Abhi Batra