Remember: Fireworks can trigger PTSD in veterans

Published: Jul. 1, 2020 at 10:57 PM CDT
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Fourth of July is almost here and a big part of the celebration is the fireworks. However, for some military veterans living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the loud blasts and explosions of color can take them to a scary place.

“They can bring back memories or trigger thoughts or reactions that you might not expect and I think that's probably the hardest part,” said Veteran Larry Doss.

Doss served for a total of 22 years, with active duty in both the Army and the National Guard.

"Deployed to Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, served time in the Middle East and a lot of time here in the states too,” said Doss.

He has pride in celebrating Independence Day. However, as a veteran, “That can be difficult because you want to be involved in all the activities, you want to have fun, you want to celebrate and at the same time there's sometimes a little piece in the back of your mind thinking ‘okay, you know, how's this going to go for me this year,’” said Doss.

It's something he'd like folks to be aware of. So they understand if a veteran needs to walk away or take a break.

"Take a moment to understand that there are people within their communities that have sacrificed and that that does come with a price and sometimes it manifests itself in reacting to these kinds of situations,” said Doss.

Dr. Kari Leiting is a Clinical Psychologist at the Sioux Falls VA.

“People who experience trauma can have a startle response, where they’ll startle more so than some other people will. And so fireworks can for some people kind of elicit some of those startle responses. Mostly because of the unexpected nature of it, less so than just because of the noise,” said Dr. Leiting.

If you are planning on setting off fireworks, Dr. Leiting recommends checking in with your neighbors.

“Ask them if it's something that's going to bother them or just let them know that you are going to be doing it so that again, we’re kind of avoiding that unexpected piece,” said Dr. Leiting.

That way everyone can enjoy this Fourth of July.

There are resources out there for veterans:

or you can call the veteran’s crisis line: 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.

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