Are you ready for the big boom? PTSD and Fireworks

Are you ready for the big boom? PTSD and Fireworks

July 1, 2011 ~ With July 4th coming up and the passage of a new Kentucky fireworks law, we are going to be hearing a lot more noise this year.  Rather than drive to Tennessee or Indiana, we can now legally buy bottle rockets, Roman candles and other explosives that shoot up in the air.  No more need to swirl and twirl sparklers on the driveway!

With many more fireworks tents being set up all over town, it’s obvious that Kentuckians are going to spend the gas money saved in the cancelled road trip across state lines to purchase the bigger and better explosives.

Still three days away from the Fourth, my neighbors are already trying out their new toys and my dogs are once again neurotic as they wait for the random pop that sets them on edge.

Our pets and small children aren’t the only ones living on the edge right now.  There are a couple of million veterans spread across the nation, who are likely suffering with some form of Post Traumatic Stress and this holiday is one that is very difficult for many of them to manage.

Some veterans can deal with a planned fireworks display because they know the noise is coming.  They can prepare for it and enjoy the show.  What might be more distracting and cause more of a problem is the crowds.  Large crowds of people can lead a hyper-vigilant vet to experience a panic attack or even a flashback and many veterans prefer to avoid the potential triggers. The veteran in our family can handle the planned show, but not the crowds.  If your veteran chooses to stay home when the family makes their annual trip downtown, be understanding with their decision to remain at home.

What might seem insignificant to us may be the very worst aspect of the Fourth of July for our veterans.  When we step into our backyards to set off our small arsenal of fireworks, we don’t give much thought to our surroundings with the exception of waiting for darkness to fall.  When we set off our bottle rockets, we are ready for the noise and revel in the excitement of the small explosion.

But what about the unsuspecting veteran who lives two doors down?  We all hear the pops in the night for a week prior to the holiday and a week after, and for the veteran who has returned from the war zone, the pops can sound like small arms fire.  If he has not been invited to your backyard show, he may find himself ducking for cover, running for his gun, and his mind may take him back to Iraq or Afghanistan in a split second.

One year, after my son’s return from two tours in Iraq, we decided to spend the Fourth with our extended family.  As dusk fell, we arrived at the home where the party was taking place.  Suddenly, from out of nowhere, we heard a loud boom.  The neighbors next door were setting off their own personal fireworks show.  My son, suddenly thinking he was in Iraq, jumped over a six foot fence and tackled an unsuspecting woman sitting in a lawn chair.  He thought he needed to save her from the explosion of the Improvised Explosive Device (IED).  Needless to say, everyone who saw him fly over that fence, as well as the woman who was “saved” from the explosive, were all extremely startled.  My son was shaken, and it was at that moment that we all wondered if he was going to be okay.  PTSD was just a term we had heard about…..and had no understanding of how it would come to affect the life of our combat veteran.

If you plan to shoot off your own impromptu fireworks show this year, and you know that a combat veteran lives nearby, won’t you consider letting him know prior to your celebration of America’s freedom?  He is one of the few who stood in the gap for your freedom. Take an extra minute to let him know you are going to dazzle the sky with your firecrackers.  He will appreciate your consideration, and he might even come out to watch the show.

Originally published at Military Missions Inc.

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