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Laughing through the pain: Former firefighter uses comedy to fight PTSD

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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -

Travis Howze doesn't look like what he's been through.

The former Charleston Firefighter was injured in the 2007 Sofa Super Store fire that claimed the lives of nine firemen.

"I was assigned to the recovery team, where we had to go inside and find our brothers, locate them, and bring them out," he said.

In 2010, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that causes extreme stress or fear even after a traumatic event.

"I tried to stay and fight through it. It just wasn't working."

After eight years of service, Howze says the symptoms of PTSD became too severe to continue with the fire department.

"Each day is a challenge," he said.  "I still have issues today. I still have a lot of problems, but I face them differently now."

Now, Howze works full-time as a professional comedian.  Up to 40 weeks a year, the serviceman tours the country, using laughter as his weapon of choice to combat the lingering pain.

"When I first got into it, I was running from something."

"I've always been in a job where I felt like I was helping people.  The way I help them (now) is through laughter."

Howze says The Lowcountry Firefighters Support Group helped him recover from what he described as a "hole."  He says his dream is to not only advocate for others struggling with PTSD, but to use comedy as a means to raise money for the organization.

"All the bad things in life have put me here."

Howze has traveled all 50 states as a professional comedian, including yearly stops in the Bahamas.  He's scheduled to perform during the FDIC Indianapolis Fire Convention in Indiana, an event that brings more than 30,000 firefighters from across the world.

For more information on Howze, and upcoming tour dates, click here or visit www.funnyunderfire.com.

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