Most American families celebrating the Fourth of July will attend a parade or community celebration, go to a cookout or picnic, and wrap up the evening by watching a fireworks display. But for some of the 214 million of the people celebrating Independence Day, fireworks are anything but celebratory.
For veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, fireworks might trigger memories of combat and other military experiences, causing them to relive the trauma, provoking feelings of isolation or rage, or leading to more negative thoughts and feelings than before.
About seven or eight out of every 100 people will have PTSD at some point in their lives, and about 11 to 20 of every 100 veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) have PTSD in a given year.
In 2014, veteran Jon Dykes created a yard sign that read: “Combat veteran lives here. Please be courteous with fireworks.” Through a GlobalGiving campaign, Dykes raised enough money to provide a free yard sign to 2,500 disabled veterans with PTSD.
“Courteous to me means remembering that you are not the only one living in your neighborhood,” Dykes said. “America celebrates our independence on the Fourth of July. Not the first, second, third, fifth, sixth and seventh of July. Some fireworks are expected, and that’s OK. I understand. But not 24 hours a day.”
In order to bring greater awareness to the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder, the National Center for PTSD designated June as PTSD Awareness Month, and the United States Senate designated June 27 as National PTSD Awareness Day.
In the days leading up to the Fourth of July, take some time to learn about PTSD, connect to resources that can help, and share with others to spread the word. For veterans with PTSD the for whom the sound of fireworks can trigger uncomfortable memories of combat, Make the Connection with other vets and share your experience. You can make a difference today.