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'A little more stress:' Veteran shares how holiday fireworks can trigger PTSD

Over the holiday weekend many are expected to shoot off fireworks for the Fourth of July. But, those same celebrations can cause cause trauma for our veterans.

LONOKE COUNTY, Ark. — With the Fourth of July right around the corner, we are all gearing up for parties this holiday weekend, with many of those same parties involving firework shows.

Some of those fireworks are big, others are small and they're all are beautiful in their own way. While the fireworks can be gorgeous, those loud sounds can be triggering for some people.

The deafening fireworks create problems for those like Gulf War Veteran Gary Nutt.

"I do like the colors and everything, but it's just those booms," Gary said.

Gary was diagnosed with Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with the noisy bangs and explosions from the firework having a tendency to trigger tough memories from his time in service. 

"It's just a little more stress during the Fourth," Gary said.

Every year during the Fourth of July, his wife Sarah sits by his side and patiently waits for the noise to stop. 

"He can't rest and he can't relax [and] for me, I can't rest [and] relax when he's not resting and relaxing," Sarah said.

Gary is not alone either. As many as 500,000 veterans have PTSD.

It's something that can cause mental trauma, according to Dr. Charles Chamblee, Director of Behavioral Services for Baptist Health Systems. 

"Fireworks exploding can cause an involuntary response that may lead to something like the flashbacks to a panic attack," Chamblee said.

He said there are ways people can lessen the stress tied to fireworks.

"Individuals can use things like background noise, music, or headphones to reduce the intensity of those noises," Chamblee said.

He adds family and friends can also help support veterans who are triggered by the loud and unpredictable noises.

"Things like using breathing techniques or repeated statements and reminding themselves 'I'm at home, I'm safe'," Chamblee said.

There are also some signs you should watch for like disassociation and blank stares.

"There might be some shaking [and] that could even have some negative emotions, or one of the things that they may want to do is isolate," Chamblee said.

As for Sarah, she wants to be clear that she doesn't want to ruin anyone's holiday celebrations, she just wants people to be more considerate and respectful of not just them, but everyone around.

"The veterans would appreciate it and I would appreciate it," Sarah said.

Dr. Chamblee also recommends letting the people around you know that you'll be firing fireworks.

People with PTSD can also consider checking ahead to see when nearby firework shows are scheduled to begin and end. 

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