The 4th of July is coming, and so are the fireworks. There are bottle rockets that sound like a Kalashnikov round snapping through tree branches, and the distant ones that feel like artillery. For many, those cheap made-in-China explosive devices are the best part of their beer-soaked, barbecue sauce-slathered Independence Day. But for some — namely, combat veterans — fireworks elicit mixed responses.
“Some go camping to get away from the city and the fireworks,” said Shawn Gourley, a Navy spouse and co-founder of the non-profit group Military with PTSD. “Other just put some heavy-duty headphones on.”
Gourley’s organization, based out of Evansville, Ind., started in 2010 as a Facebook page and got its non-profit status in the past year. Aside from helping families understand and live with veterans with post-traumatic stress, the group has also passed out and sold over 1,400 18-inch by 24-inch signs in the past three weeks that read, “Combat veteran lives here, please be courteous with fireworks.”
“The purpose of these signs is not to stop fireworks, no veteran wants that,” Gourley said. “It’s the days leading up to and the days leading away from July 4th, when it’s unexpected, that’s what the problem is.”
Gourley said the sign’s genesis started last year when she posted a picture on the group’s Facebook page of Army veteran John Dykes posing with his own homemade sign.
“It had 21 million views, it went viral,” Gourley said. “So we decided we wanted to hand them out for free so we called John and asked if we could make the signs and he said ‘absolutely.’”
The signs are available for a $15 donation that pays for two signs and shipping. One sign goes to the purchaser, and the other is donated to the next veteran who wants one.
As someone who has been on two combat deployments to Afghanistan, I wondered what other veterans would think of the signs. These are among some of the responses:
As July 4th approaches, I'm curious what everyone thinks about these here signs. pic.twitter.com/vU7YhMpUfB
— Thomas Gibbons-Neff (@Tmgneff) June 18, 2015
@Tmgneff very well put. I don't like the insinuation that every combat vet can't handle fireworks. As a vet, I love fireworks.
— Brian Adam Jones (@bjones) June 18, 2015
@Tmgneff Negative. It's counter to everything we stood, fought for to hamper patriotic celebration or impose views upon anyone taking part.
— F'N BOOT! (@FN_BOOT) June 18, 2015
Others suggested their own versions: