Fireworks possibly flare up PTSD cases in combat veterans - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Fireworks possibly flare up PTSD cases in combat veterans


The Fourth of July is a time for food and fun and fireworks, but more importantly it's a time to remember those who are fighting for our nation's freedom.

It's important to remember that some veterans have a hard time on a day like today. For some combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, fireworks and gatherings can be tough and trigger flashbacks of war.

"As far as celebration, we're not sure what we're going to do yet," Pedro Sotelo said.

Sotelo served the United States fighting overseas in Iraq in 2003.

"For me it's a very intense moment. The first thing that happens is my mind goes back to a combat scenario," he said of being around fireworks.

Fireworks can trigger flashbacks for veterans like Sotelo suffering from PTSD.

"Just two days ago I was walking with my wife in my neighborhood and some fireworks went off and I reacted," he said.

It's something the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs wants others to be aware of when they are firing off fireworks in their neighborhood.

According to the government, 11 to 20 percent of veterans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have PTSD.

"For a person who has been in a combat zone and has encountered mortar fire or rocket fire, the sounds, the smell, even the startle that comes up can trigger either an anxiety response or can be a direct reminder of combat that they were exposed to," said Dr. George Dent, a psychologist who treats veterans at Kansas City VA's Honor Annex.

Sotelo hopes by sharing his story that other veterans who may suffer from PTSD will find the help they need at the VA.

"Perhaps as a community, perhaps we can help those veterans and let them know there's a safe place to come to," Sotelo said.

Physicians at the VA urge family of veterans to ask them before coming to a big fireworks event.

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