June 27th, was PTSD Awareness Day. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a common issue shared by many returning soldiers of war, is estimated to affect 11%-20% of post 9/11 troops who have been deployed. PTSD can be completely debilitating for the sufferer and the slightest sound, light, etc can set off a host of symptoms making it nearly impossible to finish small tasks. The strain on memory function is a common expression of the disorder. PTSD is many times accompanied with TBI, Traumatic Brain Injury, which can be caused by close proximity to explosions. And even though our day of official awareness has past, we need to keep in mind how the celebration of our freedom on July 4th can affect those with PTSD and/or TBIs.
Fireworks, a choice party favor of Americans, can be a real cause of concern for those with PTSD and trigger flashbacks of dangerous days. “I think a lot of people would like just more understanding and more respect. There’s no need to be setting off fireworks consistently before Fourth of July,” Thomason said. “Because going to that place in my head on a regular basis for two months is really a tortuous thing.”
Sgt. Matthew Thomason of Indiana retreats to the more peaceful mountains during the festive times. And it isn’t just the loud cracks and booms of the fireworks that cause distress. It is the smell that so vividly sends veterans back into a memory they do not wish to relive over and over. Perhaps the time an explosion killed their friend or a close call to death which still haunts them.
Most veterans aren’t asking to put the brakes on the fireworks. Only that they be warned that they are coming so the shock doesn’t push them back into an episode of panic that they cannot control. Many are now putting a sign out front in their lawns stating that a ‘Combat veteran lives here, please be courteous with fireworks‘
As we revel in our American Birthday, let us be thoughtful of our actions and how they may affect our most wounded protectors who have fought for us to have the freedoms which we enjoy.