‘We just never know who might be suffering from PTSD’: Being courteous to veterans this July 4th

Independence Day is just around the corner and many people are excited to enjoy the holiday, but it is important to be safe during celebrations!
Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 7:09 PM CDT
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(KALB) - For the thousands of veterans in Central Louisiana, Independence Day celebrations that include fireworks can be a difficult time.

“Particularly for combat veterans, fireworks are a trigger because the sounds and the whistling that fireworks make often remind them of explosions that happened in the military,” said Dr. Kelley Pears, a psychologist at the PTSD clinic at the Alexandria VA Hospital. “Also, what we hear a lot of is that the red and green fireballs remind them of tracer fire, and for people with PTSD that can be very very intense.”

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - or PTSD - is a mental health condition that is caused by traumatic events.

Dr. Pears said veterans who might be triggered by fireworks should begin preparing themselves for the holiday.

“One of the things we can do to prepare for it, first of all, start talking now to people in your circle, your support system, whether its fellow soldiers or fellow service members that you served with, immediate family, neighbors...that sort of thing,” said Dr. Pears. “Another way to prepare is to start telling themselves that I know I’m going to be safe, I’m in America, I’m in Louisiana, I’m in whatever city I’m in and that I’m not in Iraq, I’m not in Vietnam, I’m not in the place where my trauma took place.”

Fireworks are a staple in the Fourth of July celebrations, but it is important to be courteous to veterans who might be struggling with PTSD.

“Fireworks are fun. It’s part of the celebration. You just never know who might be struggling with PTSD. You might have a neighbor that you didn’t know was in combat,” said Dr. Pears.

One way to help a veteran through the holiday is to let them know you will be lighting fireworks in your neighborhood.

“My step sister is a veteran, and she has no problem with fireworks as long as she knows they are coming, so we just say ‘hey, go let the vets in your neighborhood know that we are about to shoot fireworks,’” said Rachel Benoit, owner of Big Jim’s Fireworks in Pineville.

There are also multiple apps that can be useful for a veteran struggling with PTSD, CLICK HERE FOR THOSE.

If you are a veteran or a family member of a veteran and need urgent help, please call the Veterans Affairs hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or the national suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

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