Why Do We Celebrate Independence Day?

On July 4th, Americans celebrate Independence Day by observing the birth of the U.S. and the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, which sets forth the freedoms that signify “… life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” During these occasionally unsettled times, America continues to represent and fight bravely for these freedoms both at home and abroad. They are the basis for our unparalleled democracy, which, although often challenged, remains the most solid framework for rights and freedom throughout this nation.

The Declaration of Independence establishes my freedoms and rights as an American. As a military caregiver, caring full-time for my husband, a service member severely injured in war, I am aware of the liberties, promises, and rights set forth by America’s forefathers. Along with these promises, I have had to create a new set of expectations and hopes for my future—and my future with my husband. As a combat medic, my husband, Leonard, served nobly through two wars — Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia — performing countless acts to save his comrades. While he was deployed to Afghanistan, I waited anxiously for his return so that we could continue our life together, working and living as we had, as full partners, with shared hopes and aspirations.

My Experience

On yesterday, while my husband and I should have been rejoicing with many Americans to commemorate this special occasion, I – like many wounded warrior families, checked in with neighbors to learn of local firework activities, and made the necessary adjustments which for us involved vacationing elsewhere. The very fireworks that represent much of what my husband and other service members have fought for trigger the horrors of war that have taken so many lives.

Our neighborhood celebrated Independence Day with fireworks and enjoyed the tradition of barbecue dinners with family and friends. They were very supportive although I missed out on the time and enjoyment with our HOA community because my husband is so traumatized by the fireworks. He and many of his fellow service members still wrestle with the complexities of war even after they return; we as caregivers are reminded of these daily as we create new lives for ourselves.

Hope as a Military Caregiver

Independence Day celebrates the highest ideals of the American way of life, which our military men and women have fought for, sustained disabling injuries for, died for. Most soldiers sign up knowing the dangers that lie ahead of them. The most fortunate of them return able to resume a life that is at least somewhat similar to that they left behind. Yes….but what about those who return injured and their loved ones? The lives of all of these are irrevocably changed and will never be the same again. While most people across the US, for example, watch with joy, excitement, and awe the glorious fireworks displays set off in so many towns and cities, my husband, like many veterans returning from battle with PTSD, is greatly disturbed by the blasts of light and sound, the celebratory events of Independence Day.

The Fourth of July is often truly a mixed bag for many of us, veterans as well as their caregivers—a reminder of what is so positive and precious about our way of life, but also a reminder that that way of life has a price. For most military caregivers, the Fourth of July is also a reminder of our constant search for and ability to find happiness and dare to hope in a new set of aspirations in the after-math of war. Our dream of having a happy marriage and family once again. The freedom from fear that a refrigerator door closing the wrong way might set off a partner who was once carefree, happy, and full of laughter. The dream of living a “normal” life again, working in a career that we studied and prepared for, when, instead, our days are suddenly scheduled around sitting in our loved one’s doctor offices and conferring with medical professionals, making sure that our loved one isn’t exposed to too many influences that create anxiety.

So, caregivers are always assured of the opportunities to pursue happiness and life and liberty—these are a part of the national document and intentions that our forefathers wanted to secure for all Americans. But, for us, much of what we experience is also contradictory in some respects – in that, the very nation that was established by our forefathers, the nation that my husband and others chose to fight for, is the same nation that we struggle within daily in order to reconstruct our lives in the aftermath of the traumas of war. Wounded veterans and their caregivers are indeed offered the same rights and privileges of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as all Americans and, in many respects, we honor the Fourth of July in ways that other Americans do. But we are always hopeful that we will be able to celebrate fully, as we once did.

What adjustments do you make during fireworks and celebrations? It will help me, and other caregivers to try new ways to cope and deal with the triggers our loved ones face!

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