An Open Letter to Children of Combat Veterans (take 2)

Happy 4th of July Weekend!

I remember being a child and loving this weekend.  It was the best weekend of summer!  I was already well established into my sleeping in late/staying up late, lounging around, playing outside and swimming schedule, so 4th of July just meant parties!  Parties and Fireworks- and food!

There will be plenty of awesome activities this weekend- cookouts and barbecues, block parties and pool parties.  People will grill burgers, dogs, ribs, chicken and steak.  Watermelon, cake (often decorated with strawberries & blueberries to resemble the flag) and ice cream will be consumed by the ton.

Still, if you’re a kid of a Combat Veteran, this weekend might be a little different for you.  Dad might not want to go to the barbecues and parties,  he might want to stay in the safety of your air-conditioned house.  He might not want to scroll through his Facebook feed and see all the pictures of people eating the aforementioned hot dogs and watermelon.  Worst of all, he might not want to go to the fireworks show.

We all know how awesome fireworks shows are, especially on post.  I can only speak of Ft. Bragg’s, but I’ve been going as long as I can remember.   The 1812 overture with cannons, the Golden Knights jumping in,  the parade of flags, and of course, the fireworks, once it’s dark.

And Dad.  Sitting in the cab of the truck, ignoring the excited demands that my sister and I would shout- “Dad, get out here, you’re missing them!”

See, 4th of July might not mean the same thing to your Dad as it does to you.  He likes the barbecues and the watermelon and the long weekend, but he doesn’t like the memories that he might associate with the day.  Independence Day (4th of July’s REAL name) is about gaining our independence from England. It’s also a lot more than that.  It stands for freedom.  You might have heard “Freedom isn’t Free” or “Some Gave All” growing up.  While we formally remember fallen Service Members on Memorial Day (in May);  it’s hard not to think of all the brothers and sisters in arms you went to war with when everyone is talking about freedom, America, and waving the American flag.

Your Dad might even resent some of these people.  He might feel that their patriotism only comes one day of the year, when he and his fellow Service Members fight for our country EVERY day of the year, in many countries and many different situations.  That’s ok if Dad feels that way.  He still loves YOU.

You are one of your Dad’s most prized possessions.  He wants to protect you and make sure you’re safe at all times.  This is why he might seem overbearing at times- not giving you the freedom that your other friends have.  He loves you, trust me.  Despite the yelling and the arguing, he loves you.

So what about that fireworks show?  Why doesn’t Dad want to go to that? Being courteous when it comes  to fireworks & Combat Veterans has gained a lot of press this year.  It might not just be the fireworks themselves.  It could be the heat, the traffic, the having to go on base.  All of these things could be triggers, or make your dad uncomfortable.  All of these reasons might also be why Dad isn’t excited about all the cookouts and parties this weekend either.

It can be difficult to be the kid of a Combat Veteran, trust me, I know.  Never forget that your Dad loves you, and that you mean the world to him.

4 July 2015

(Author’s Note: as in my previous version of this, the Combat Veteran is “Dad” not Mom.  While this may seem sexist, I assure you it’s not.  While I understand that many females are Combat Veterans and serve, females are less likely to express their PTSD towards their children, or aggressively.  Females’ PTSD tends to look like depressive symptoms.)

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