“Don’t play with that, you’ll put your eye out.” Remember that one when you were a kid? Or how about “Don’t touch that! You’ll get burned.”

And what about the standard parental warning that was specially created for July 4? “Don’t hold that in your hand when you light that fuse. You’ll blow your fingers off!”

Well… I guess a lot of us ignored at least one of those, at least once, and got stuck, burned or needed a big, fat bandage on a couple of fingers. It was a ritual of growing up for some of us. And if you had friends like mine, it got you laughed at more than you wanted, too. But eventually, a couple of those pains wound up making us smarter, right?

There’s probably nobody better than a comedian to find the real value in a little pain. Mary Tyler Moore once told a fan, “Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage.”

So how about those firecrackers we threw around when we were kids… and their big brothers and sisters, the spectacular fireworks we still watch every 4th of July with lots of Oooohs and Ahhhs? Are they dangerous or are they just good fun?

Fireworks are mostly just good fun. Today we can even buy our own, thanks to new New York State laws that trust you to avoid the pain. This week’s Jamestown even tells the rules to keep it safe and make it fun.

But all that really begs one question that we rarely ask. “Why fireworks?”

Fortunately, you probably don’t have to dig very hard into your grammar school memory banks. The fireworks are supposed to remind us of “the rockets’ red glare, bombs bursting in air…” and our Star Spangled Banner that still proudly stood against the enemy’s night-long bombardment.

The American Revolutionary War was waged against such evils as “taxation without representation” and an imperious, arrogant rule from afar. It was waged to achieve “freedom and justice for all.”

Historians tell us that war engaged more than 200,000 service members who suffered more than 4,400 fatalities and more than 6,000 non-mortal woundings. That’s a definite Ouch! And it’s one from which we believe that we and the whole world have grown much wiser.

The men and women, military and civilian, who withstood those bombs bursting in air, however, experienced none of the delights and thrills of our modern, spectacular July 4th light shows. They feared for their lives and learned kinds of bravery many of us can barely imagine.

So this year, as we Oooh and Ahhh at the rockets’ red glare, maybe it would be fitting, if even for a moment, to thank those brave souls of long ago for whom we celebrate the day today. And perhaps while we watch, we’ll offer a prayer that we will never again have to experience what those beautiful fireworks symbolize. It would not be amiss.

While you’re enjoying the spectacle this year, do it with pride for those who earned us the right to celebrate it. And, naturally, enjoy the read.

Walt Pickut

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.