Fireworks can trigger PTSD, veterans' chaplain warns

- Nothing says the Fourth of July like fireworks. The patriotic displays of red, white, and blue are a tradition dating back to America's first celebration in 1776. 

For many Americans, there's no better way to celebrate independence and freedom. But for some who fought for freedom, they react differently -- the loud booms can snap them back to another reality. 

Chaplain Gary Fukes provides spiritual care for veterans suffering from PTSD at the James A. Haley VA Hospital. He says the loud noises can trigger symptoms.

“It can be a disrupting experience for individuals, especially veterans who have been in combat environments. They hear those fireworks going off, and it’ll trigger a memory from their experience in combat,” Fukes said.

It's an issue that plagues veterans nationwide. The Indiana-based group ‘Military with PTSDdistributes yard signs all over the country that say "Combat veteran lives here, please be courteous with your fireworks."

Its founder says Florida is the third-largest state for distribution.

"The VAs in Florida were actually the first VAs to contact us to start distributing the signs back in 2015," said Shawn Gourley. "That is what launched this idea of partnering with the VAs to get these to as many veterans as we can for free."

With the Fourth approaching, Fukes says there's more to the holiday than the sounds.

"The Fourth of July is about celebrating our nation's independence," he added. "We really don't need to have fireworks to celebrate it."

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