Fireworks at baseball games can cause PTSD for Vets
To the Editor/Publisher,
I’d like to submit an opinion piece on Grasshoppers baseball games and the irony of honoring Veterans with fireworks. My husband is a huge baseball fan but also suffers from PTSD from his service in the Marines. I’m passionate about getting this article out there because Greensboro is a veteran-friendly community but PTSD and some of it’s potential triggers seem to be missing from the conversations we have about supporting our Vets.
My husband is such an avid baseball fan that his Red Sox cap serves as his calling card at film festivals, which he attends throughout the year for work. In fact, he doesn’t even remove his hat for red carpet events (thankfully he made an exception for our wedding). His fanhood runs so deep I once found him hugging a stranger in an art museum simply because they were both Sox fans. And any time he passes someone in public donning the gear of one of his many sports teams, he yells “Go Sox!” or “Go Pats” in their general direction.
When we recently moved to Greensboro, NC from Portland, OR, the Grasshoppers quickly jumped on his radar (pardon the pun). Since they aren’t a major league team, he can support them as fervently as the Red Sox without conflict. As we entered the stadium for the first time, my husband purchased his very own Grasshoppers cap to temporarily replace the Red Sox hat he wears most days. To our delight, he looks good in green (let’s be honest, I had already used up my veto power on the neon orange cap he first set his sights on). We went to our first game on a Thursday, the same night Derek Jeter graced the stands. We caught glimpses of his head in the suite as we cheered the Grasshoppers to a win.
I never cared about sports before I met my husband, and truthfully still don’t. But I do enjoy a baseball game by his side. There’s something peaceful and relaxing about baseball. The pace of it is easy to digest, the people watching is prime, and everything about it is simple. But last Thursday night there was an unnecessary complication for my husband that left him crouched over in panic, eyes squeezed shut and hands over his ears.
To many people, fireworks may just be part of the fun of summer. But to combat-veterans like my husband, fireworks can trigger symptoms of PTSD. An estimated 11-20% of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from PTSD. Not all veterans have a reaction to fireworks but for those unlucky few, it can feel like they are right back on the lines of combat. I’m proud of my husband for too many reasons to list here but in situations like this a few come to mind. His 10 years in the Marine Corps and the unimaginable situations he faced there, the way he handles his medical complications with grace and humor, how he was able to navigate post-service life and build his own business from scratch. And also his openness about PTSD, an illness that often gets overlooked or ignored due to the stigma attached to it. On the rare occasion that his PTSD makes an outward display, I feel proud of that too. It’s a mark of the sacrifices and burdens he carries for his country. But I deeply wish he didn’t have to bear it. In this case, I wish he could enjoy one of his favorite things without worrying when the next boom will catch him off guard.
My father was with us at the game and snuck off to ask guest services if they could hold the fireworks. The woman told him there was nothing she could do but that her partner had to leave the Veteran’s honorary game the previous night due to a similar reaction. Which begs the question, why are we honoring servicemen and women with something that could be harmful to their wellbeing? The link to baseball and veterans is obvious- at most games they’re honored at the start of the national anthem. The same anthem that’s punctuated with a firework at the climax of the performance. As for baseball, isn’t it enough of an American pastime in its own right? Do we really need to add fireworks into the mix? Let’s protect and honor veterans and service people in a way that’s inclusive and doesn’t make other time-honored traditions intolerable to enjoy. If the Grasshoppers are determined to keep fireworks as part of the games, perhaps they can designate specific nights as “firework free” and think of another way to celebrate Veteran’s Night at the ballpark.