How to support veterans through fireworks on the 4th of July


Collegian | Garrett Mogel

Diggs Brown, a member of the Colorado Veterans Plaza of Northern Colorado, proceeds down Mountain Avenue during the annual Independence Day Parade in Fort Collins Colorado on Tuesday, July 4, 2023. “Independence Day is my favorite holiday of the year,” Brown said. “We honor the service and sacrifice of all those who came before us and made the nation the way it is.”

Ivy Secrest, Content Managing Editor

As Fort Collins celebrates the Fourth of July with food truck rallies and firework spectacles, it is important to remember a key part of our communities and even of Independence Day celebrations: our veterans. 

Serving the United States of America does not come without risks. For many, the struggle of returning home is mental as well as physical. Post-traumatic stress disorder and general mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation can deeply affect veterans. 


While some are unaffected, the celebratory tradition of fireworks can be a trigger to veterans with PTSD, signaling to their brains that they are back in combat or simply unsafe. 

This does not mean that fireworks shouldn’t be a part of celebrations; however, it does mean that how fireworks are used should be planned with consideration to veterans. 

Colorado State University is home to 2,000 student-veterans, benefit-using family members and active-duty military. And Fort Collins is home to roughly 7,674 veterans, according to the U.S. Census Bureau

Former CSU student Jonathan Milkovich was a serviceman in the Army and is currently serving with the Wyoming National Guard. Though the fireworks don’t bother Milkovich, he knows the unexpected sound of fireworks can bring back memories of combat or even just training. 

Letting your neighbors know when you plan to shoot off fireworks and discussing with them if that is an issue for them is an easy way to keep your neighborhood veterans informed, Milkovich said. 

“Truly a lot of the guys that I know that have seen combat, they love fireworks just as much as anyone else,” Milkovich said. “It’s more of that startling that gets a lot of people. As long as they’re aware, it shouldn’t be as much of an issue.” 

Milkovich acknowledged that some veterans have more intense reactions, but in general, knowing when the fireworks are coming helps with managing any potential stress caused by the show.

“Know your neighbors, and then just talk to them,” Milkovich said. 

As the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs suggests, if you know fireworks might remind someone you care about of a trauma, ask them about how you can best offer support.


The VA provides resources for anyone planning on using fireworks for personal events and celebrations. Here are a few ways to take veterans into consideration during the holiday:

  • Alternatives to fireworks (sprinklers, light shows, etc.)
  • Ask guests if fireworks are a difficult reminder
  • Notify guests ahead of time, and set a specific time for fireworks so guests can plan for their own needs
  • Show compassion — you can choose the celebration you want, and at the same time you can respect the decisions others make for self-care

The VA also outlines actions that veterans can take, should fireworks be an unwelcome reminder of trauma: 

  • Don’t outright avoid fireworks. This is a short-term fix that may worsen the problem over time. 
  • Remind yourself of the present — what’s happening around you right now rather than the past.
  • Focus on the meaning of military-related holidays, and support your self-care.
  • Prepare for the event, and ask a host if fireworks will be part of a celebration and at what time the display will begin and end.
  • Bring support, earplugs, headphones, a supportive friend or even download a free mobile app like PTSD Coach to have with you.
  • Prior to the event, work on self-care — good sleep, breathing techniques, journaling, mindfulness, limiting alcohol — to be at your best.

Whether enjoying fireworks provided by the city or sneaking some over from Wyoming, reaching out to your neighbors and considering their needs is an easy addition to celebrating Independence Day.

Reach Ivy Secrest at or on Twitter @IvySecrest.