73ºF

Some combat vets dreading Fourth of July fireworks

Vets living with PTSD posting signs asking neighbors to be courteous

SAN ANTONIO – This week millions of Americans will celebrate our nation's independence and the Declaration of Independence by setting off some fireworks, but those patriotic displays can be a source of anxiety for combat veterans living with post tramatic stress disorder.

Dr. Jennifer Guajardo, a psychologist at the VA's Frank Tejeda Outpatient Clinic, said fireworks can trigger symptoms.

"A lot of anxiety, watchfulness, difficulty relaxing, things like that. It can stir up some troublesome memories, it can make it really hard to deal with the holiday," Guajardo said. "It's actually a popular topic in some of our group therapies right now, it's coming up and we're talking about ways to deal with this coming weekend."

While some combat veterans may be fine going to a large fireworks display they can prepare for in advance, loud noises coming from a neighbor's backyard display might be too much for them.

"They find themselves being easily startled, they might assume defensive positions, like if it reminds them of some combat experience they've had and following that there tends to be a lot of shame and embarrassment if it was witnessed by other people. So, it can really bother the person quite a bit or stir up some memories they're trying really hard to forget about," Guajardo said.

Some vets around the country are now posting signs in their yards asking neighbors to be courteous.

While the signs have had mixed reviews on social media, Guajardo believes they can be good conversation starters.

"I don't think the intent is to stop people from enjoying fireworks displays but to maybe just be thoughtful about the ways they use them. We find that it's often the unanticipated fireworks that bother people more than let's say if the city plans a firework display. Veterans can prepare themselves to expect the noise, the sound, the light and they do better than the middle of the night random neighbor who bought the truck load of fireworks that they didn't anticipate," Guajardo said. "So just being kind of considerate who your neighbors are. This is a very military town, so there's likely to be a veteran in close proximity if you're planning to set off some fireworks."


About the Author: