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Combat veteran shares message for anyone setting off fireworks this week

Portland, OR (KPTV) -- The Fourth of July is just a day away, and while many of us prepare for barbecues and fireworks, there are also so many people in our community who struggle with this holiday.

The Portland waterfront will be a popular spot Thursday night for the big fireworks show happening on the water.

And you might think these kinds of events would be troublesome for combat veterans like Ian Newland, but he says it’s really what people do at home that has the biggest impact.

Photos show Newland during his first tour in Iraq.

“I joined up right after 9/11,” he said. “They put me right in the front lines and I ended up serving 38 months overseas.”

He went through a lot during his time in the Army, and he has the Purple Heart to prove it.

“In 2006, I was severely wounded by an enemy hand grenade,” Newland said.

And even now, all these years later, he still has to be mindful of anything that can take him right back to that moment.

“A pop, a crack, a snap, a firework can sound a lot like a gunshot or an IED or in my situation, a hand grenade,” Newland said.

He is one of so many veterans impacted by fireworks this time of year.

The executive director of the Returning Veterans Project says that’s why in all the fun, it’s important to also be mindful.

“It’s just one other way to be sensitive to what they’ve sacrificed for us,” said Bethany Wamsley, executive director for the Returning Veterans Project.

She recommends using sparklers or other fireworks that aren’t as noisy.

Keep it legal and be aware of when you’re shooting off fireworks. Newland says it’s much easier for him when he can plan for them versus when he’s caught off guard.

“I hear a firework go off and it’s a random Monday and I just got home from school or work and it doesn’t sound like a firework to me because I’m not expecting it,” he said. “It’s not supposed to be the Fourth of July yet it was the first of July so when I hear that my heart rate goes up, you know. I start to sweat.”

Newland says he loves celebrating America’s independence.

“I’m very proud of my service, I’m very proud of my country,” he said.

He just wants folks to keep these things in mind so that everyone can have a good time.

And Newland says some of his best advice is get to know your neighbors: know what their needs are and how you can be sensitive to them.

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