Use caution: fireworks can trigger PTSD for vets

Posted at 10:53 PM, Jul 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-03 15:19:19-04

While many will be enjoying fireworks to celebrate the nation’s independence, some who fought to maintain and protect sovereignty ask that people be mindful when using them.

The loud noises and bright lights can trigger a post-traumatic stress disorder reaction.

Christopher Rivera, 27, of Florida, spent 11 months in Iraq in 2011 with the Army looking for roadside bombs.

It was between the early hours of 2 and 5 a.m., for example, that service members would be looking for explosives. Rivera said.

“So when you hear things going boom, it could easily take anyone back. Easily,” he said.

He was diagnosed with PTSD in 2015.

“I was walking my dog last night and somebody was shooting mortars in my neighborhood so we went back inside because my dog doesn’t like them either,” he said. 

If veterans like Christopher can anticipate a boom, they’ll be okay. It's the surprise booms that may have an effect.

“If it’s sudden, most times you’re going to go back to doing what you know how to do and your first instinct is to get away from whatever it is, he said. 

Everyone’s experience with PTSD is different. 

Doctor Elizabeth Bosarge, PTSD program manager at the VA in West Palm Beach, Florida, says if you have fireworks, use them only on the July 4th holiday. Before or after can be especially dangerous.

“That makes it even more challenging because those are times when they’re not expecting it, so it’s harder for them to prepare and harder for them to cope,” she said. 

Christopher doesn’t look for roadside bombs anymore. He works at the VA as a medical support assistant.  That’s where he’ll be on the 4th of July. He carries experience protecting our country, and that survival instinct.

“If you know that there’s a combat veteran in your neighborhood, go and talk to him and say hey, do you mind or what would be a good time…something to help them out because they still are going through certain things in their mind,” he said. 

The 24/7 crisis hotline for vets: 800-273-8255 (TALK).