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Fireworks can trigger PTSD symptoms in veterans, group offers support

Photo Source: Live 5 News Photo Source: Live 5 News
SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) -

For many, fireworks are used for celebrating the Fourth of July, but for some of our nation's veterans it can be a source of anxiety that brings back memories of war. 

This is the case for some veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It's important to be mindful during holiday festivities.

It's the sharp bangs of fireworks that can take veterans with PTSD back to defensive mode U.S. Navy Veteran Dan said. 

"Last night we had a few pop off and of course I jumped and immediately I knew what it was but it's that sudden flashback," Dan said.  "It takes me back to certain things I've been exposed to, anchor chains going off unannounced."

He says many often associate PTSD with combat veterans, but he feels it too.

"I didn't think I had it because I wasn't in combat," Dan said. "It just seems amplified and then when you jump they look at you like what's wrong."

Dan is a leader of a local PTSD support group for veterans and for their family and friends. It helps them to understand how to react to veterans with PTSD. It's free and members can remain anonymous to those not in the group like Bill, an Army Combat Veteran. 

"Me personally if I'm expecting it I'm okay, it's the unforeseen ones that bring you back some memories," Bill said.

He recalls the first time fireworks triggered memories from combat when he took his kids to Disney World.

"Of course kiddos want to see the fireworks and I'm like cool great and I didn't realize how it had affected me," Bill said. "My little girl had looked up....she said daddy it's okay."

They say it's the unannounced fireworks that have the worst impact.

"The big thing is we're people too and you may not see the injuries or thing things that we've gone through that makes us think a little bit differently between the military training and the exposure to these traumatic events," Bill said. 

If you know someone with PTSD they suggest you give them a warning if you're going to light fireworks.

"Say hey we're getting ready to have a fireworks display we want you to be a part of that, and most vets are very patriotic if you haven't figure that out yet," Dan said. "That's why we took the oath then we'll embrace that," Dan said.

The group's ultimate goal is to support others with similar experiences, so they don't feel alone.

The Veterans Family and Friends Military PTSD Support Group meets in two locations every week. On Mondays a group meets at 7 p.m. at Fellowship of Oakbrook, 1400 Trolley Rd, Summerville.  Another group meets on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. at Cathedral of Praise at 3790 Ashley Phosphate Road, North Charleston.

Dan says there will always be someone present at the meetings. 

"You never know that one person that comes in who's living right at the edge, if we're not there for that person that might be his last night and that's why we do it," Dan said. "We don't want to see a brother go down."

For questions or more information you can reach a leader at this number: 843-637-6463.

Leaders say group meetings are not a therapy session but a support system. 

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