Veterans Aware: Fourth of July, ’tis that other season

OPINION — The day that America traditionally celebrates the birth of our nation is here. It has always fascinated me — and been a source of inspiration — that we celebrate independence on the day we declared it to the world, not on that day in 1781 when the British surrendered or in 1783 when the Paris Peace Treaty was signed.

My take is this: when your intentions are to bring about great things for yourself or others, declare it. Then do whatever it takes to make it so.

“… and the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air …”

Since 1968, firecrackers, fireworks, sparklers and concussion waves have triggered in me an emotional — and sometimes physical — return to being under enemy fire. Most disturbing is the sound of “tubing,” which is the “whump” sound one hears 20 seconds before a firework bursts in the air, showering a colorful blossom of “oohs” and ahhs.”

Tubing precedes a mortar round landing on or around combatants, killing or horribly maiming those in proximity from the resultant explosion. Firecrackers are the sound of a firefight, small arms fire from or at the enemy. The sounds with which we celebrate our freedom are the same sounds as those it took to win it. The difference is that cheers of celebration now replace the moans, screams and whimpering of death.

“They didn’t get me then, and they aren’t gonna get me now!”

Forty-six years after the battlefields of Vietnam, I have found a way to appreciate the fireworks displays of July 4, July 24 (in Utah) and New Year’s Eve. I remember the exhilarating feeling of “I survived” after an ambush, enemy line probe, full-on assault or a mortar or rocket attack by the North Vietnamese Army. I bring that feeling to the moments of today’s fireworks display.

“They didn’t get me then, and they aren’t gonna get me now!”

I invite you to that place, brothers and sisters, to shake your fist in the face of The Reaper!

The time draws near, brothers and sisters. I invite you to let the quivering be about how close we came to death but lived. Per Kenny Loggins, “Celebrate Us [sic] Home.”

I invite you to “self-inoculate” (a true PTSD treatment) by consciously embracing that triggering events are coming and making mental notes about what type and form the triggerings may take, so that when they happen you are prepared.

Stand with the same strength and courage you stood with then, but let the trembling and tears now be those of gratitude and knowledge of being blessed knowing that, now as then, it is in the hands of God.

May God bless the U.S.A.

Uncle Sam needs you to vote!

Independence Day events

For a complete list of Independence Day events in Southern Utah, see the St. George News TGIF 4th of July Show.

For a guide on where you can and cannot set off your own fireworks, see the St. George News guide: Fireworks 101: Legal in your city?

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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