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by Julia Hood, Ph.D., BCBA, NCSP

PTSD And Fireworks – Supporting Your Neighborhood Combat Veterans

Veteran Watching Fireworks
Photo by Chris Fuller on Unsplash

The 4th of July is here, and many of us are looking forward to a nice weekend spent on the water, barbecuing, or at fireworks shows and community events. For many, a dazzling fireworks show spent with friends and family is one of the best times of the year. However, for the combat veterans in your neighborhood, Independence day may be a difficult time. For many combat veterans, the loud, unexpected bangs and booms of irresponsibly set fireworks can trigger PTSD symptoms. This Independence Day, we are urging our community to learn more about PTSD, and to be considerate of combat veterans.

PTSD Facts Regarding Fireworks And Veterans

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, anywhere between 11-30% of combat veterans will struggle with PTSD in their lifetime, depending on their service era. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a mental health challenge that sometimes develops after individuals experience traumatic experiences of some kind. For the brave men and women who have served our country, memories of combat experiences are often a foundation for PTSD symptoms. These symptoms can be very difficult to manage, often keeping veterans from maintaining employment, housing, or personal relationships. Since Utah celebrates two holidays with fireworks in July, these symptoms can be especially difficult this month.

A combat veteran named Kevin Rhoades decided to speak out within his Texas community about the troubling affect fireworks can have on those with PTSD. Mr. Rhoades, who has dealt with PTSD since his deployment in Iraq, placed a sign in his yard just before July of 2015 that said:

“Combat Veteran Lives Here. Please Be Courteous With Fireworks”

“It’s not that I don’t want people to have fun. On the Fourth of July, I’m going to pop my own fireworks. But when you get woken up at two, three o’clock in the morning, it brings back those memories.” said Rhodes in an interview with NBC News.

Being Courteous Of Those With PTSD This 4th Of July

You don’t need to cancel your celebrations in order to be courteous of those struggling with PTSD. Combat veterans, including Kevin Rhoades, are very vocal in understanding that fireworks are a part of the celebrations for Independence Day. The issue lies in fireworks that are misused or used without consideration. To be most courteous of those with PTSD triggers caused by fireworks, please remember the following:

  1. Only use fireworks in permitted areas – Not only is this a legal requirement, it is an important way to anticipate the sound of fireworks. Some combat veterans with PTSD spend Independence Day in neighborhoods, resorts, or communities that don’t permit fireworks. Please be considerate of these requirements, and respect firework-free areas.
  2. Schedule Your Celebrations Appropriately – Most combat veterans attribute episodes of PTSD triggered by fireworks to instances where fireworks were used after appropriate hours. Please be respectful of resting hours, and don’t launch fireworks outside of the hours defined by your local government.
  3. Communicate With Your Neighbors – If you are planning on celebrating with fireworks this Independence Day, talk with your neighbors and post in your neighborhood social groups. If you are a combat veteran dealing with PTSD, consider voicing your concerns, or speak with a Valley care professional for support and additional assistance.

This Thursday, we hope that everyone is able to respectfully celebrate America’s independence and enjoy a wonderful holiday weekend. Please be conscious of the combat veterans in your neighborhood, and manage your fireworks respectfully and responsibly. If you or someone in your network is dealing with PTSD, we’re here to help. Valley offers a variety of personal PTSD support options throughout Utah. For help overcoming your PTSD symptoms, or to learn more, reach out to a Valley care professional today.

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Julia Hood, Ph.D., BCBA, NCSP
About Julia Hood, Ph.D., BCBA, NCSP
Julia Hood completed her Bachelor's degree in Psychology at Westminster College and her Master's and Doctorate degrees in Educational Psychology from the University of Utah. After completing her Doctorate, she worked as a psychologist in Granite School District. She joined Valley Behavioral Health in 2014 as the Director of the Carmen B. Pingree Autism Center of Learning. In 2017, she expanded her role as the Senior Director of Clinical Services. She further expanded her role in May 2018 as the Chief Clinical Officer and will work in this role to ensure the highest quality of clinical care for our clients and support the clinical teams across the company.