Orlando VA Healthcare System
Easing the stress of Fireworks on Combat Veterans
Every year we celebrate our Nations Independence Day and many citizens choose to celebrate with the sounds of a beautiful fireworks display overhead. For the majority of the citizens of our great Nation the sounds of fireworks do very little other than remind us of the July 4th holiday. However, to a combat veteran, the sounds of the booms, the crack, and the whistles of the fireworks is an all too familiar sound. For a soldier suffering from PTSD, the sounds, lights, and vibrations can be a direct reflection of the conditions of their combat experience. These conditions have a lifelong effect on our Nations combat veterans.
Take a moment and think about that Veteran and imagine when they were overseas, weather it was Iraq, Afghanistan, or Vietnam. Now put yourself in their shoes and imagine what it was like receiving mortar rounds overhead all-day long. Every time a mortar was whistling overhead and ultimately hit the earth causing an enormous “boom” heard from miles away, you were reminded that you are in a war zone. As you spend time this 4th of July celebrating our Independence with cookouts, think about your neighbors. Are any of them combat veterans? If so, consider one of these tips to take away the “panic” reflex they might feel.
3 Steps to ease the stress of fireworks on Combat Veterans
- Eliminate Surprises. If anyone in your neighborhood is a veteran, let them know about your plans for the 4th of July. Give the details about the times and dates you plan to celebrate with fireworks. You could even invite them to celebrate with you. By eliminating the element of surprise this will lower the possibility of a veteran suffering from PTSD from having a panic attack.
- Limit your use of Fireworks. When it comes to fireworks we tend to want to “Go All Out”. Many Americans want bigger and better every year and they try to “out do” their neighbors. Be mindful of your neighbors that are veterans and consider limiting your fireworks to 1 night only and typically 1 hour. This will give the veteran a known time frame that the fireworks will be involved and prevent the anxiety and stress that they could be suffering.
- Initiate small fireworks first. When you are initiating your evening of celebration with fireworks start with small “low impact” fireworks and build up to the larger “higher impact” fireworks. This will reduce the sudden shock of explosions in the sky without any warning, ultimately lowering the possibility of a veteran from being surprised and startled.
So, this July 4th, hang out with your veteran friends and celebrate your freedom! Don't be afraid to use fireworks, just be considerate.