Fireworks Can Trigger PTSD Among Veterans

For veterans with post traumatic stress disorder, the Fourth of July weekend can bring back some terrible times.

"There's lots of explosions and a lot of folks set fireworks off at their homes not just at an event so it makes us very nervous and bothersome. It's something that never goes away," said Dan Gannon, a Vietnam War Veteran. He's suffered with PTSD since 2003.

The fireworks around this time of year can remind him and other vets of loud explosions, booby traps, mines, artillery, and incoming explosives.

"All veterans think about it and talk about it, sometimes stay completely away from, some will stay at home and prefer not to be anywhere around it and some of them it doesn't bother as much."

The Iowa Veterans Affairs helps vets suffering with PTSD. The triggers caused by fireworks happen more often than we think.

"It's fairly common for veterans who have seen combat who have been in battle in the fights, that kind of thing," said Dr. John Wallace, the PTSD Coordinator with the Iowa Veterans Affairs.

Scheduled fireworks shows like those held by the city help lower the anxiety level for veterans.

"If a vet in this example is prepared mentally, I know this is coming, it's typically less disturbing for them if it happens and I'm not away from it," said Wallace.

But the unanticipated backyard fireworks can be more, mentally painful.

"If it goes off unpredictable, you usually react to it the same way you would react in combat most likely you're gonna hit the deck and it's gonna scare the heck out of you and then you become quite worried about your surroundings.

If you're planning on having your own Independence Day Celebration, make sure to keep an eye out for veterans.

"If you see someone you know is a veterans that person appears to have some kind of negative reaction, then it's good to have an understanding of that's about," said Wallace.

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