Fireworks create trauma for some veterans

Fireworks create trauma for some veterans

LORAIN, OH (WOIO) - Most of us look forward to the Fourth of July fireworks displays.

But for some people, Independence Day is traumatic.

That includes veterans who associate the loud booming noises with combat.

It can be the toughest day of the year for vets suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. And the days leading up to it can be just as bad.

But you can help make it a little easier for them.

Will Evans, an Army veteran from Lorain, served in Iraq in 2008 and drove convoys.

A lot of those memories are hard for him to share.

The cane he uses to get around is a reminder of the physical injuries he suffered.

But the pain he faces with PTSD does not show on the outside.

"There is no normal anymore. It was hard. I'm used to a structured life. They told me what to do, when to do it. And when I came back, I had freedom and it was hard," Evans said.

As the Fourth of July approaches, a single firework can cause Will to duck and cover.

"It's not just a firework to us. It's a flashback to a place we don't want to be," he said.

A time for celebration for most Americans can trigger painful memories for combat veterans who fought for our freedom.

"July 4th is the worst day for veterans with PTSD. Because fireworks are just like explosions-- they are explosions," said psychologist Deborah Koricke.

Koricke says there's not much that veterans can do, except mentally prepare for this time of year. She recommends they wear headphones and listen to music to try to block out the sound.

"Don't think that you can necessarily tough it out, but think about what you can do that might be calming, might be relaxing before that period of time," Koricke said.

Evans posted a sign in his yard hoping his neighbors would help him out this weekend.
The group "Military with PTSD" sent out 2,500 signs to vets like Evans urging neighbors to give them a warning before they light any fireworks.

The signs read "combat veteran lives here, please be courteous with fireworks."

Sometimes it's the surprise that's worse than the loud boom itself.

"We're not trying to stop the Fourth of July, we want you to have fun. Light off as many as you want. A heads up would be nice," Evans said.

It was a big step for Evans Wednesday night when he took his daughter to see a fireworks show. It was the first time he's gone since he got out of the military six years ago.

He says it was tough, but it was worth it because his daughter loved it.

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