Our Military Life Blog

PTSD & Fireworks

I’ve contemplated how to approach this sensitive subject without offending either side. Lord knows I do not feel qualified to offer advice on the subject as I battle my own demons (not combat related). With the celebration of America descending upon us in less than a week, I know my own worries are already triggered as my neighbor tells me of the glorious show he will put on. And as excited as I am to see it, I am scared.

For me, it’s a different fear than a Veteran would (probably) feel. Many veterans (& non veterans) can have emotional reactions to loud noises or sounds that bring memories of traumatic events. This is called PTSD, or, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Some symptoms that these men & women may have are flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

You may be wondering what this has to do with the 4th Of July. Think about someone sitting watching Tv, sleeping, or even hiding themselves away, and hearing a sudden & repetitive , loud popping sounds. To you it’s a celebration, and I am sure to this veteran as well. However it can flood back memories of a war once fought and perhaps not fully over in their mind.

These men & women do not want you to stop the celebration & fun time. They only ask that you understand if they do not join you and ask that the fireworks do not carry over past midnight (or start early that week).

No one knows how many have a hard time dealing with fireworks ( 7% to 20% of the more than 2.5 million veterans and troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan are believed to have developed PTSD), but an Indiana-based nonprofit has come up with one way to help those who do — red, white and blue lawn signs reading, “Combat Veteran Lives Here. Please Be Courteous With Fireworks.”

The lawn sign was the creation of Florida veteran Jon Dykes and distributed by the nonprofit, called Military With PTSD.

“We posted it to our Facebook page on July 1, 2014, at 1:30 p,m.,” says Shawn Gourley, who along with her husband Justin Gourley, a Navy veteran with PTSD, created the organization. “It had a total of 21 million views last year.”

Gourley says the organization has sent nearly 1,100 of the signs so far, including 70 to veterans in Florida alone.

Veterans are not the only ones that can be fearful of fireworks, please also be respectful of service animals as well. Many dogs experience human-like long-term reactions such as anxiety and panic attacks. By some estimates, more than 5 percent of the approximately 650 military dogs deployed by American combat forces are developing canine PTSD. Of those, about half are likely to be retired from service.

Enjoy your weekend, and again, be kind and understanding to those who have protected your freedom.


If you have disturbing thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event or if you feel you’re having trouble getting your life back under control, talk to your health care professional. Get treatment as soon as possible to help prevent PTSD symptoms from getting worse. If you are (or know someone) who may be considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor. Press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line. You can also call the 24/7 Veteran Combat Call Center 1-877-WAR-VETS (1-877-927-8387) to talk to another combat Veteran. There is always hope.

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