Fireworks mark the celebration of the Fourth of July but for veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, the booms and cracks of the Independence Day fireworks can recreate nightmares and cause psychological stress.
PTSD In Veterans
Between 11 percent and 20 percent of the more than 2.5 million who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are estimated to have developed PTSD, a psychiatric disorder that happens after experiencing life-threatening events such as terrorist incidents, serious accidents and military combat.
The Department of Veteran Affairs said that flashing light and loud blasts such as those produced by Independence Day fireworks can induce panic attacks.
In a bid to prevent the stress that can be triggered by firework noise, veterans, their families and organizations come up with ways to help veterans cope with the festivities.
Many veterans now post signs in their yards so neighbors would be made aware about their sensitivities. Veterans affairs offices and Vet centers even distributed some signs for free.
Jennifer Haynes, whose husband, Marine Corps Veteran Kevin Haynes, suffers from PTSD, hopes that the sign can discourage the neighbors from setting off fireworks particularly late at night. The signs are also a call for neighbors to be sensitive to people with PTSD.
"Seeing someone you love experience what he (Kevin) does when he hears fireworks in painful. He freezes up. It's like he's not even there. I just want to help him but there's nothing I can do," she said. "So if neighbors can at least warn us before setting them off it would mean a lot," Haynes said.
The Military with PTSD is also working on a prototype of a noise-canceling headphone that uses cutting-edge audio-interference technology to intercept and cancel the boom of explosion from fireworks. The technology, which is currently a working prototype, can replace the noise of fireworks with pre-recorded messages for the veteran who wears them.
Some veterans make personal adjustments to deal with the challenges of having PTSD, which include having family members who enjoy the fireworks.
"Having 2 young kids they like to watch and set off fireworks. After 4 deployments and a lot of small arm and IED's. I have to set that aside to make them happy. But yes i still jump and fidget when they go off. You just have to figure out ways to deal with it and move on. I know it sounds stupid but what i will do for my kids. I can't let my service interfere with my family life," shared Thomas Gaylor, a former U.S. Army combat engineer.