Signs, Of Veteran Entitlement


This was published Friday on Breach Bang Clear. I’m pretty sure I’m going to get shanked for it.


Signs, Of Veteran Entitlement

I won’t go into too much detail, since I’m sure most of you have heard of this already. But apparently some veterans are so traumatized by their wartime service they’re asking people to “be courteous with fireworks” around their homes on July 4th. Because fireworks “trigger” their PTSD.


These signs are being popularized by an organization called “Military with PTSD”, which according to CNN has sent the signs to 2500 veterans and has 3000 more on a waiting list. According to the organization’s founder, the signs aren’t intended to make people stop using fireworks, they’re just asking people to be “courteous”. “No veteran that served the United States wants to take a freedom away from people, especially fireworks, which represent freedom,” she said. “They don’t want them to stop. What they’re asking for is for people to give them a heads up.”

IT’S THE FOURTH OF JULY. Isn’t that heads up enough? Are these signs about “helping vets with PTSD”, or catering to some veterans’ sense of entitlement?

As a combat vet myself, I’ve had – to say the least – a strong reaction to these signs. My gut feeling was something along the lines of, “This is ridiculous. These signs don’t have anything to do with treating PTSD, they’re just a way for some veterans to beg for attention and be special snowflakes.” But I try to be fair, and realize my experiences have given me significant biases. So I tried to rationally analyze the pros and cons of putting those signs in veterans’ yards.

And after careful consideration, I can only conclude that these signs are pathetic, self-defeating crap.

John Adams wrote in 1776 that the Declaration of Independence ought to be celebrated with fireworks. I haven’t found a record of fireworks being used to celebrate in 1776; however, we’ve celebrated with fireworks since literally the first Independence Day commemoration in 1777. We did it while we were at war for our very existence, yet the men who survived massed musket fire and bayonet charges managed to endure fireworks displays without putting “pleafe be ye courteouf with ye olde firework” signs in their front yards.

It goes without saying, or at least it should, that past generations of American warriors experienced combat far worse than that of the typical Iraq or Afghanistan veteran. Yes, today’s warriors have fought some hard fights (Fallujah, Najaf and Sangin come to mind). But in terms of scale, casualties and intensity our wars have been different than many before. We haven’t endured three or four thousand KIAs in a single day like at Normandy and Antietam, or two thousand in 76 hours as at Tarawa. Yet the men who crossed sabers on Civil War battlefields or waded through surf, blood and dead comrades to a beach swept with machinegun bullets and shellfire somehow endured fireworks displays without putting signs in their yards.

What makes veterans of today’s wars different?

We’re not draftees. We’re volunteers. Anyone who enlisted or reenlisted after 9/11 volunteered for military service while our nation was at war. We went to war because of the choices we made, and many of us went back to war because of those same choices. Some veterans consider that wartime service an honor and privilege; the more intense the combat, the greater the honor and privilege.

And we see a growing divide not just between veterans and civilians, but between distinct groups of veterans. Some feel our service made us stronger and more resilient; others see themselves as damaged, and want everyone to know they’re damaged. At least 5500 of them want to advertise their problems to their neighbors, and some of those posted their photos on the internet to share their problems with the world. The cognitive dissonance displayed in some of those photos is astounding; maybe it’s just me, but I see a slight contradiction between someone saying they’re a hardened combat vet yet are uncomfortable with fireworks.


The next photo is almost perfect. What’s better than advertising “I’m a combat vet with PTSD, I’m armed and I might react irrationally to fireworks”? The only way to improve it is to add a bottle of whiskey, to achieve the “drunken vet with PTSD and a gun” trifecta.


I have to ask, what do these “combat veterans” expect to actually accomplish with these signs? At best, their close neighbors might see the signs and refrain from using fireworks. But what about the neighbors one street over? What about the people who live ten houses down, never drive past the combat vet’s house and have no idea he’s sensitive to fireworks? Some fireworks can be seen and heard from literally miles away; is the sign going to somehow protect the veteran from fireworks in other neighborhoods?


Read the rest at

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Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for and Iron Mike magazine and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at or on his Facebook page (

13 Responses to “Signs, Of Veteran Entitlement”

  1. 1 John

    Chris what’s your combat MOS? With that combat MOS did you deploy in a combat zone in that MOS, or where you put into a secondary roll. Also how many combat actions have you been in? Have you been to Najaf, Fallujah, or Sauter City?

    • John,

      I’m happy to answer your questions, although I’m pretty sure you’re asking for the wrong reasons.

      I hold two combat arms MOS’s, 19K and 19D. I deployed as a 19K to Iraq but was in a secondary role on a convoy escort team. During my Afghanistan deployment I was intel and worked with Afghan and French infantry units. In Iraq I experienced a few IED close calls plus sporadic and inaccurate small arms fire. In Afghanistan I was in several firefights, the largest of which were roughly battalion size operations. I have been through Najaf on convoy missions, never been to Fallujah or Sadr City.

      Why are you asking?

      I strongly suspect you’re on the verge of accusing me of saying I was infantry and only infantry fights or “deserves” PTSD. Whenever I write about abuse of the VA PTSD system, I get that automatic assumption. I’ve never claimed to be infantry, and in fact have been clear that I never was. I’ve also never claimed support MOS’s can’t be in combat or get PTSD. The majority of my combat experience was as a support, non combat arms soldier. In Iraq we had cooks, mechanics and admin clerks on convoys.

      But perhaps I’m incorrect in my assumption of your motives. If so, I apologize. But I would like to know the train of thought behind your questions.

    • I should also add, I do not have PTSD.

    • 4 mac11b2003

      I’m not Chris, but I’ll jump in here….My Primary MOS is 11B. Secondary MOS is 19D. I spent time in most of the major shitholes in Iraq, and was even in Sadr City enough to know how to spell it correctly. I was not in a “secondary” role, not that that matters much. As for combat actions, I assume you are only talking about Iraq? I’m not really sure, I didn’t carve a notch on my rifle stock every time we were in contact. I was in enough to count, I guess, and actually Iraq was a lot quieter to me that Afghanistan was (Kunar, Nuristan, Nangahar, and Laghman provinces).
      In my opinion, these signs are a pathetic attempt to gain some recognition, a “look at me and feel sorry for me” plea and nothing more more. I came home from my first Afghan deployment on July 1, 2005. So yeah, I get it. I just don’t feel the need to reach out to everyone and ask for their pity.

  2. 5 Mark W

    I saw this story on one of the weekday morning news show on a major news channel where they were interviewing the author/seller of the signs. I got the same reaction as you did Chris when I first started listening but after questions were asked as you pointed out… 1 of which how in the hell is someone a few blocks away going to see or know about a the sign in the vets yard.

    When the author/seller was asked that Q. pointedly she said that they had no problems with fireworks on the 4th as all vets (those with PTSD especially) are certainly going to be expecting fireworks on the 4th. The intent, according to her and her vet husband was to get the word out that vets with PTSD don’t expect fireworks “leading up to the 4th and following the 4th” and that was really the intent of the signs. My commentary is if the signs would have said simply something along the lines ……pls light fireworks only on the 4th as a vet lives here with PTSD, the signs would be self explanatory and I believe would have received much more interest and more mileage and less criticism…..just my thoughts. I got no problem with the signs but they should have been much more detailed with their true intent and not leave room for imagination. One final point. The signs also might be one big deterrent to a home invader as aren’t they always looking for a soft target? A sign in the yard that a vet with PTSD lives there coming up against a stupid home invader… money is on my vet with PTSD to come out standing and the home invader biting the dust.

    • 6 Joyce Brown

      I KNEW it had to be a woman who came up with this. Women are just idiots anymore, and I am one. Knew it, knew it, knew it.

  3. 7 Donald Sensing

    And previous generations of combat vets did not have a federal government propping up the “caring” professions trying to convince every vet that s/he is a victim rather than warrior conqueror. Previouus administrations did not tell vets that they were mentally damaged from their service, suspect of conduct and classified as actual threats to the domestic US as potential domestic terrorists.

    My father in law saw heavy, heavy combat against the Japanese in WW2, having stepped onto gun-swept beaches eight (count ’em, 8!) times and fighting through the subsequent campaigns, including the lengthy Philippines campaign. He had buddies die in his arms and was attacked more than once by enemy aircraft (an experience not one present-day soldier or Marine has endured).

    Did he come down with PTSD? You bet your sweet ass he did. After I married his daughter and we visited her home, I would be awakened almost every night by his nightmare moans. That was 40 years later, and I heard them for years afterward, too.

    And what did retired Col. S. do the next morning? He got up early, ate breakfast, showered, got dressed and went to work to support his family. Every day for 50-plus years. He joined the Lions Club and more, went to church and served on the planning commission of his large-city home town.

    He did, dinosaur that he was, what REAL MEN DO, and never regretted what he endured. It was, as he told me, “what we had to do, and when we had done it, we came home and got on with life.”

    What he and his hero-comrades did not do was come home to a government and a society that treated them like ticking time bombs, as objects of both pity and scorn, as permanent wards of the state, and as mentally-delicate infants whose sanity could be shattered by a string of firecrackers on the 4th of July.`

    They were, and their country was, in a word, made of tougher and sterner stuff than we are today.

    I am a retired Army combat officer. My son fought in Iraq in the Marine Corps as an AAV crewman. In battle, our men and women fighters are as tough as any generation ever had.

    But when we bring them home we ruin them. On purpose. That is the greatest national shame of the post-9/11 wars.

  4. 8 bilejones

    You can, at a stretch make a case for WWII.
    All the rest since the revolutionary war have been morons murdering for corrupt politicians.

  5. My Dad joined the Navy in late 1939, he served in all Theaters during WW2. He was washed overboard in the North Atlantic, three went over my dad was the only one saved. He earned 8 battle stars during WW2, In the Pacific he served on the USS Birmingham CL-62. During the Battle of Leyte Gulf she suffered great topside damage from explosions on board the carrier Princeton while courageously attempting to aid that stricken vessel. 239 men died, 408 were wounded. When my Dad returned home after the war he was an alcoholic for the next 15 years, during this time he never missed a days work. He never talked about his war time service unless I asked him repeatedly, of all of his experiences these are the only two he told me. He stopped drinking on his own after those 15 years and never touched another drink.

    I served in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970. My mos was 11E2T, armored crewman. I served just Northwest of Saigon along the Cambodian border. In places like War Zone C, the Iron Triangle, Ho Bo Woods, Renegade Woods and many more. I don’t believe I have ever suffered from PTSD. In the mid to late 70’s I heard about PTSD, but from the beginning I always thought it was something cooked up by under employed mental health professionals and anti war activists. Does PTSD really exist? I actually think its how you as a individual process your life experiences, some people need a crutch and maybe some just can’t let go and move on!

    One last note, The highest loss-rate for any MOS was 11E (Armor Crewman) 27% KIA in Vietnam.

  6. My father died when I was 15. He was away from home in Texas supposedly testing officer candidates for the Air Force (his day job was highly classified, so there’s no telling what he was really doing). I reacted to this by becoming a zombie emotionally. I didn’t weep for my father (whom I adored) until about ten years after his death.

    One evening about 15 years after my dad died, my husband and I were watching Major Dad—which I enjoyed because I’d grown up in the military—when the star of the show walked in the back door of his home in full dress blues.

    One moment I was sitting in a chair, smiling, watching a comedy, the next I was lying on the living room floor in a fetal position weeping hysterically. I had no warning, no expectations, no reason to expect such a reaction. I do not even remember processing that what had triggered this response was a blue uniform that looked much like my father’s.

    I don’t think I’d even heard of PTSD at this time. I thought I had dealt with my father’s death. I spent the next several years battling these reactions. I was ambushed time after time both with TV and movie appearances by men in blue and by coming across them in daily life. I avoided situations where uniformed men might be present, but often their appearance was unexpected. Even armed against it, I couldn’t always keep myself together; the rush of emotion was so strong. It took prayer, persistence, a supportive husband and a lot of introspection to get past this, but I did get past it.

    Here’s the point: whether you call it PTSD or shell shock or a mood disorder or trauma or a mental glitch, it’s real. And it can completely overwhelm your rational faculties even when you think you’re armed and ready. If you’re blindsided by it, you don’t stand a chance; it’s like being assaulted from ambush or bowled over by a sudden gust of wind. You can’t prepare for that.

    While I think it’s unfortunate that some vets have chosen to link their reactions to violence they might perpetrate, I have empathy for their concern about things that might trigger their trauma. It is not a pleasant thing to have your reason stripped away so suddenly by something that has no impact on the people around you.

    So, please, until you’ve been in the grip of this type of condition yourself, maybe give these guys some credit for self-awareness and show them the same compassion you might someday need to be shown.

    • Maya, you’re misunderstanding my point. I’m not saying people shouldn’t be sensitive to whatever their “triggers” are (god I hate that word). I’m saying they can’t expect the world to refrain from engaging in those triggers. In your case, was it feasible to expect men to never wear blue around you? In my case, was it feasible to expect people to stop engaging in flash photography, or stop knocking on my door? Expecting or even requesting that people stop engaging in normal, innocent behavior because of your, my or another combat veteran’s personal sensitivities isn’t reasonable, and isn’t effective. Besides that, what sense does it make to continue avoiding a trigger rather than learning to deal with it? I don’t have PTSD and am not intimately familiar with PTSD treatment, but I’m not aware of any therapy or therapist who suggest a patient continue to avoid what bothers them, or who advises patients to advertise their problems to the community.

      • 12 thefoolserrand

        Chris, your comments are microaggressions that are intolerant of our tortured combat vets that are the new class of eternal victims that must be convinced they are helpless.

        My son-in-law got back from Dumbphucistan back in May of this year. He was a combat engineer and prior to that, a Marine infantryman deployed to Iraq. We were up on the roof watching the 4th of July fireworks in San Diego when some neighbors set off some very large illegal fireworks. Until that point, he was fine, but almost dove off the roof when those went off and it took a while to calm him down. As a combat vet myself and many that post here, we all know time heals and close family support is the remedy. I think the signs are stupid. The world does not stop because of a veteran’s TEMPORARY PTSD. We heal and move on. These signs hint at an attempt to create a new class of helpless citizens in need of eternal support.

  7. IF fireworks caused me high stress; I’d turn on loud music; wear hearing protection, and take a sleeping pill, anything rather than admit to it.

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