First off, don’t take the title the wrong way. This is strictly a personal event and (hopefully) not related to other military installations.
Last night we bought our daughters a small pack of fireworks so they could light them off in celebration of America’s “birthday”. It’s the same thing that happens in nearly every country and something I’ve been doing every year since I was old enough to be trusted with fire (about 2 years ago 🙂 ). Seriously though, I’ve been lighting fireworks since I was in grade school, maybe about 6 years old or so.
We take everything into our housing cul-de-sac and set up a fountain “candle” in the middle of the “street”. The cul-de-sac is approximately 30 meters across so there’s plenty of room to light these off and still be perfectly safe. Because I’m still in a cast, my wife lights the fountain and everyone moves back to the driveway and enjoys the show. As the firework burns down, a car drives up and a man starts talking to us.
It turns out that the new Admiral of PACOM (Commander, Pacific Fleet) has apparently decided that no one should be allowed to have personal fireworks due to the fire hazard in housing. To enforce his mandate, he has representatives from various Navy commands driving around the housing area telling people to stop lighting fireworks.
Now, here’s where my personal opinions come in:
- This housing area, while technically military in that only military families can leave here, has been privatized. This means the military sold a contract to a private agency that takes our military housing allowance ($30,000 a year for my rank) and takes care of maintenance, addresses issues, and generally acts like a traditional landlord. The military only has a liaison in the housing office to address issues that can’t be resolved normally. Since the military no longer owns the housing, I’m curious to know how much authority the Admiral has in housing? Isn’t an issue like this normally handled by the landlord? I honestly don’t know. However, the housing security patrol drove by several minutes after and said nothing to the other families/teenagers down the street, who were setting off fireworks after being told by the Admiral’s representative to stop. He even drove over the 1000 firecracker string they set off in the middle of the road and didn’t even pause. I think we were the only people to actually obey the “rules”.
- Because housing is no longer run by the Navy, families are no longer required to maintain the areas like they used to, i.e. much of the grass watering is taken care of by the housing grounds keepers. If the grass is dead enough to be a fire hazard, then is that a fault of the families and should we be punished because of it?
- If this was such an issue, especially if the reason was for fire safety, then why weren’t we notified prior to the night of the 4th? Seems like there was ample time to determine the fire threat and send out notices to the residents.
- In our cul-de-sac, we were the only people setting off fireworks. My wife and I were both outside and our children were being responsibly supervised. Apparently we aren’t responsible enough to be trusted with matches, though I was responsible enough to be allowed to run a nuclear reactor on submarines.
- My final point. I am a Sailor in the United States Navy. I participated in Operation Enduring Freedom right after 9/11. Many of my fellow Sailors have been sent to Iraq and Afghanistan to augment the soldiers and Marines over there. Thousands of people have died recently and in combat in the past. Who are you to deny me the pleasure of celebrating the day my country became independent? If achieving an independent nation for the Iraqi people was so important that it warranted sending tens of thousands of American troops over there, then why am I not allowed to light a few legal fireworks to honor my country and the sacrifices of it’s people? I’m trusted to defend my country (and others) and lay down my life if need be. I can’t be trusted with pack of fountains and a match?
Sure we can watch the professional fireworks display (which, judging by the number of stories this morning on CNN, is about as safe as setting them off at home) but setting them off with your family is part of growing up. There’s a limit to how safe you can force people to be; at some point you have to believe they will do the right thing then hold them accountable for their actions. It’s just like being a parent.
It’s like the schools that don’t allow science experiments with chemicals because a kid might be burned or something might explode. It’s like Homeland Security preventing the sale of chemicals to private citizens because of the threat of terrorism. The world may be marginally safer but at what cost? Children are taught to not explore their environment because it might be dangerous. People aren’t allowed to conduct home experiments in rocketry or chemistry because they may be labeled a terrorist.
The world isn’t safe, just like life isn’t fair. Even waking up in the morning has it’s risks (most heart attacks occur when a person is waking up, due to the “shock” to the system). The best you can do is teach people to be smart and responsible and then let them learn from their mistakes and face the consequences of their actions.