Fourth of July can cause PTSD flare up in veterans

Fourth of July can cause PTSD flare up in veterans
(Source: Military with PTSD)
(Source: Military with PTSD)
Vietnam Veteran Lee Ewing (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Vietnam Veteran Lee Ewing (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Many people look forward to the Fourth of July holiday, especially because of the fireworks displays. But not everyone enjoys the festivities that come with the holiday.

For some veterans, the loud noises from the fireworks can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder and bring back terrifying memories of war.

"It's a time when I can go clam up in a hole and stay away from all the fireworks," said Vietnam Veteran Lee Ewing.

Ewing is with the Disabled American Veterans. He's a Vietnam Vet and has received two purple hearts. He can tell you plenty about post traumatic stress disorder, one particular incident he will never be able to forget.

"February 5, 1968 I was shot three times with an AK 47," Ewing said. "In my tour of duty there I see more than enough of death and destruction."
Because of the trauma, sights, sounds and smells can trigger all sorts of feelings. 

On the Fourth of July, the sounds of fireworks are difficult for veterans like Ewing. 

"It just brings back flashbacks of Nam," Ewing said.

"It's almost like being right back in Iraq hearing mortar rounds," Active Heroes president Troy Yocum said.

Yocum has made it his mission to help other veterans and active duty military manage stress. He can also tell you why the fireworks can set people off. 

"It's like a high pitch to a low pitch," said Yocum. "Basically 'pewwwboom' anything like that."

Another organization called Military with PTSD, based out of Evansville, Indiana, is shipping signs to veterans all over the country. The signs read, "Combat veteran lives here. Please be courteous with fireworks."

The idea isn't to keep people from celebrating the Fourth of July, it's to encourage them to be courteous to their veteran neighbors. Let them know in advance if you will be setting off fireworks or avoid the area around their home.

Yocum emphasized it's not a sign of weakness.

"This is a sign of somebody really reaching out for help and saying look I'm a human being, served in war I've dealt with the worst kind of people out there," said Yocum. "Now that I'm home I'm just asking for help and we should give it to them."

For the first time, Active Heroes is hosting a Fourth of July visitation for veterans and their families at their community center in Louisville and their retreat center in Shepherdsville as a way for veterans to be around each other and away from fireworks this Saturday.

To learn more about the signs, click here.

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