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VIP area gives veterans safe, secluded area for celebrations

Posted at 5:20 PM, Jul 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-04 17:20:57-04

Before you go to shoot off fireworks in your residential neighborhood, keep in mind who may be living near you. 

A nonprofit, Military with PTSD, gives veterans an opportunity to put signs outside their homes asking neighbors to be courteous of fireworks.

The signs seen around the Tampa bay area read, 'A combat veteran lives here, please be courteous of fireworks.'

The sounds of 4th of July celebrations can trigger a lot of memories through the loud cracking and pops of fireworks. 

"It reminds you of being in combat, it reminds you of what the noise are, what the triggers are," said former Marine, Robert Cook

Cook hasn't been able to watch fireworks for the past 16 years because of his time he served in the military. 

"You're hyper vigilant, you're paranoia of other people, what other people are doing around you, what's going on behind you," said Cook. 

This year, tragedy struck Cook's family when his wife passed away, leaving him with his five-year-old son.

"Usually my wife took him to see the fireworks," he said.

This year, with the help of a local non-profit, Veterans Alternative, Cook was able to go watch fireworks for the first time in almost two decades. 

The organization helps local veterans with triggers with transitioning back into the civilian life. Over the weekend, Brian Anderson with the veterans organization helped give vets and their families a VIP area at KIAFest off Main Street in New Port Richey.

The area left a sectioned off area that allowed for veterans and their families to have an open, more secluded area that kept the public out. 

"It meant a lot to be that Brian did it, it meant a lot to be part of this country, it meant a lot to get out," Cook explained.

Cook hopes sharing his story, other veterans will reach out to Veterans Alternative for different alternatives to help with PTSD.