How 4th of July can affect veterans with PTSD

Local News

BLAIR COUNTY, Pa (WTAJ) — There is no doubt fireworks are part of Independence Day celebrations for many, but not everyone sees and hears them the same way.

Among them are veterans dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

One way to still set off your fireworks and be respectful is just communicating with your neighbors about when and where you will be using them.

Loud noises, bright lights, can affect veterans battling PTSD, bringing them back to a traumatic experience they went through while in combat, known as a flashback.

“I can remember fireworks going off and hitting the ground and then in an instant, you realize what’s going on, that it’s not combat, that it’s just a firework,” Marine Corps veteran, Ron Heller said.

Heller celebrates his 4th of July a little differently than most.

“Get a movie and we’ll crank the volume up and shut all the windows and doors, we watch the movie so I don’t hear it,” Heller said.

Heller said veterans understand that fireworks are a part of a tradition, but there are some things you can keep in mind to be considerate of them this weekend, as well as making them aware you will be setting off fireworks, the time of day is also critical.

“The biggest thing with any trauma is anything that is surprising out of the ordinary unexpected,” Altoona VA Primary Care Mental Health Integration Coordinator Dr. Todd Negola said.

And if you are a vet experiencing this, Dr. Negola has some tips.

“With many kinds of stressful experiences, we believe in a technique called grounding, reminding ourselves where we are, what the date is, that we are safe, supportive people around us can help us to ground instead of going back and reliving that experience,” Dr. Negola said.

If you are a veteran going through PTSD, the VA in Altoona has a walk-in service that can provide care or you can call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press option 1.

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