Skip to comments.July 4th Fireworks Are Really Tough for Some Veterans With PTSD
Posted on 07/02/2014 6:12:20 PM PDT by nickcarraway
You are going to be hearing a lot of loud, concussive noises over the next few days, whether or not fireworks are legal where you live. For most of us, these explosions may be an occasional annoyance, but overall are part of the fun and spirit of Independence Day celebrations. For some veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, though, they can be a nightmare.
It isn't any great mystery why, given how frequently extremely loud noises accompany traumatic combat experience. ABC News reported on this shortly before last year's Fourth:
Samuel Askins spent 545 days as an infantryman in the U.S. Army in Iraq, witnessing numerous firefights and suffering a concussion in an explosion that eventually ended with a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.
"It ruined my life," Askins said, adding that he tried to kill himself with alcohol and drugs because of the panic attacks and despair that followed him back to the United States and resulted in his retirement from active duty.
"Even with my recovery, the fireworks will kill me this week. The [fireworks] stands are all open," Askins said. "Just last week, I went fishing and I put the boat in the water when a cherry bomb exploded. I fell out of the boat.
"I will have to deal with this for the rest of my life," he said.
A post on this subject to a military PTSD support group on Facebook has some sad personal testimonials in the comments section. One spouse of an afflicted veteran wrote:
My husband and I always try to make it out of town and up into the mountains at a state park that doesn't allow fireworks. Otherwise I don't want to know what would happen....thank you for sharing Justin's perspective it definitely gives insight to what they go through and why my husband is so adamant about leaving dodge. God Bless and stay safe all of you.
This is doubly sad, of course, given that July 4th is partly about celebrating veterans and that there isn't much affected veterans can do but try to get away from those celebrations.
My mom was a foreign national from WW 2. She could not ever handle fireworks.
Very understandable. Scares the be-Jesus out of my dogs.
I’m sure it is tough. It’s been tough on every dog I’ve owned too. Everyone is a special case? It’s barbaric loud and obnoxious. Now it’s illegal almost everywhere. It’s overregated. Ban fireworks? I hope not.
The theme of ending firework displays for the 4th seems to be front and center with the Obama/MSM front.
The admin plans to use environmental laws to end them.
Either ban fireworks or offer affected veterans a weekend getaway to Canada. This is actually the best time of year to visit Canada. They are in their six week “frost free” period.
God Bless our Military! Hey, my fellow brothers -in-arms, it’ll be tough for awhile, it’s been over 40 years since I was dodging /wincing at incoming in Vietnam. Just remember the 4th of July is a tribute to America’s independence, thanks to you. I wish you a speedy recovery. God Bless you and God Bless the United States of America!
I remember being a kid growing up in the early 70’s. For quite a some time you definitely needed to be wise about making noise if ‘Nam vets were around. Backfires, firecrackers or any other loud pops and they’d at least duck if not hit the dirt, and they were not happy when they got up.
First of all, my bonafides: Rifle platoon leader; support platoon leader; and recon platoon leader. Infantry branch. 14 and a half months in the Nam.
I think everyone needs to man up.
What the hell has has happened to this country?
Major trigger for flashbacks.
Whatever the reason one has PTSD, avoiding events that cause anxiety is a big factor in recovery.
I served 17 months in combat in Vietnam and I still find lots of change because I stare at the ground in front of me looking for mines (while scanning the treelines) and loud pops send my head down into my shoulders. I don't supposed that will ever change.
Hey Bro, I spent a great part of my youth in Vietnam too. We need to support these kids, not condemn them. This IED shit is relatively new on the battlefield, it would scare the shit out of me. Have some compassion.
With the nature of their tour of duty I’d bet it’s more than PTSD. They likely also suffer Inner Ear Damage which can also trigger a bad startle reaction from certain sounds. The PTSD can be treated and often cured with therapy sessions. The Inner Ear damage can not thus it is life long. Their doctors need to do an extensive Vestibular work up including hearing test by a audiologist.
Thanks for helping make people aware of the issue.
I am not a vet, but grew up during the Vietnam era.
My draft numbers were high in ‘72 and ‘73, so I was not drafted.
Although I have watched about every war movie ever made, the one that affected me the most was Forrest Gump.
The combat scene when the rain ends in Vietnam, with the tracer bullets, sounds, people vaporizing with direct artillery blasts, made me very uncomfortable in the theater.
It was no longer a funny movie.
And I am not even a vet.
I can only imagine what a combat vet goes through.
We certainly owe them some courtesy to have space to deal with this.
It stays with you an entire lifetime.
Only now, do I understand why the WW2 vets I knew growing up didn’t brag about their exploits. They were heroes, but they felt the real heroes were the ones that didn’t make it home.
I know that a lot of dogs panic.
Now the war on the 4th of July.
It took nearly 5 years therapy for the PTSD and the other part the part where noises set me off like the cartoon cat being barked at that hugs the ceiling is still there. It is a separate issue but it compounded the PTSD. The two together can be miserable and often the sensory damage portion left overlooked or not diagnosed.
I’m a Vietnam veteran. If I know the fireworks are coming, after the first one I can tolerate them...The unknown explosions still creep me out for a few seconds...
Perhaps I’m wrong here. I will accept folks who wish to criticize my comments.
For many millions of Americans, the Fourth of July is the one time when we are reminded of our national anthem, with the bombs bursting in air. It reminds us what many of our veterans had to go through for us.
It’s a moment of reflection for me. Francis Scott Key wrote the brilliant yet simple words to our anthem. Those words cause me to grasp why I must support my nation. It causes me to remember the prices paid.
For those of us who didn’t fight in the military, let us have one day per 365 to know the sounds you dealt with for us.
Each 4th of July, I remember our veterans. I realize what they had to face for me and my fellow citizens. For the time the whole fireworks display goes off, I imagine being in a war zone with combat taking place.
Some of you obviously have psychological wounds that still haunt you. On 4th of July you man be haunted, but hundreds of millions of us who didn’t serve, identify with you for fifteen to thirty minutes.
Thank you for your service. In two days I’ll once again identify with you for only a short period of time.
I remember you. I salute you.
I want to caution folks who think these fireworks displays should be done away with. It goes hand in hand to changing our national anthem to America.
Two years into it I was able to finally connect that to some Inner Ear damage I was born with. That added with being in machinery rooms on the ship and in the guards in a Howitzer Battery didn't help. The PTSD came from traumatic events after I got out. The total sum stress set off a snowball effect. For about three days all I could do was answer yes and no questions. What I'm trying to get at is look for both issues because the Inner Ear aspect can compound the PTSD and vise versa. Agitation at certain sounds points to Vestibular Issues. If sounds are the major trigger a person may need to look deeper for damage in their Vestibular System. Understanding why helps a persons to deal with it.
On the other hand I know one guy set off by smell. He was in special Ops and laid in swaps for days. He had to make some choices to save his unit that were not pleasant and he carried for years.
D-1 fireworks don’t bother me but I avoid big shows because I do not need more damage. However if you drove up beside me with car Stereo crank up and several hundred watts of sub-woofers blaring out the thud so help me I’d want to bust it into a 1000 pieces. Each person has differing triggers.
What you have is one of the most insecure guys in the world trying to look cool at 100 yards from every babe in the vicinity.
Just look at it that way, and you can almost LOL at the poor schmuck. It relieves a lot of the stress.
1000 pieces? Why not go all the way? LOL
Hey, you guys that loud noises bother due to your duty, my heart goes out to you. Hope it doesn’t look like I don’t appreciate your plight.
LOL I about have a few times. I've also shouted in a crowded Walmart "Will you please turn the damn P.A. volume down below a scream" LOL.
Artillery unit Vets likely are sensitive to BOOMs from fireworks because you can not protect your ears from low frequency noise damage as well as high frequency. Try this and you'll understand. Next time you hear a kid driving up with stereo thumping away stop up your ears as hard as you possibly can. You will still hear it. Why? Because the human skull is part of your hearing system. It conducts low frequency sounds.
Ever had a 155 MM cannon battery fire off just a few feet from you while you're sound asleep? I was up in the back of the Duce and Half sleeping and didn't hear Fire Mission called. Not that I was a responder to it I was the ammo hauler. We worked when gun crew slept. I came about a good foot off the bench from the sound wave concussion from full battery fire. It's an ungodly noise and feeling. This was in a two week Bivouac field training at summer camp. I endured just a few nights of it. Combat vets may endure years of it.
Yep! I've been on the receiving end of plenty of artillery, and fireworks did creep me out a bit for a few years afterward. But I'm with x1stcav on this one; some of these new vets need to man up and get on with their lives. I don't understand all this pathetic whining from grown men who supposedly faced the devil. My father fought through much worse in WWII and his generation never whined about fireworks displays, and neither did we. When you realize it's not real, you know it can't hurt you.
The Vets are not complaining.
BO will do everything he can to eradicate tradition.
If he cared so much about veterans, if these people cared so much about our military they would focus on the VA med care and they would quit exalting the berghdahl person and his family
Just don’t get away to Canada on July 1 or you’ll be in for a big surprise.
I don’t want to ban fireworks....EXCEPT on every other day EXCEPT July 4th.....I am sick of the week before and week after listening to it....also our dog REALLY has problems (or did before she went mostly deaf). ONE DAY is fine...it’s the rest of the time!
Active Duty/Retiree ping.
PTSD can come from a single event or several over a quick span of time. By quick let's say for example four traumatic events in about 4-5 years. The closer to home or the emotional connection the more likely. If given stand down time and a few years of allowing the mind to file things where they belong so to speak PTSD may never happen at all.
On the other hand if the person themselves is dealing with issues such as injuries or even undetected and unknown to them neurological issues that in itself increases Stress the brain is dealing with. If one or the other had happened the brain would handle it.. But it becomes like pouring water in a cup how much can it hold? Or a computer how many task can it do simultaneously without freezing up?
It's not a man up thing. It's not a matter of it even being phobic behavior many times. The person knows something can't hurt them but the brain which is geared for self preservation demands appropriate responses to what it see's as danger and doesn't care how you feel.
I'm afraid of only two things. Heights and poisonous snakes. But why heights? It got worse as I aged BTW. The brain runs it's own checks and balances of your body and all the senses it takes to function. Your Inner Ear can be damaged and you not realize it but yet have a fear of heights that gets worse. The brains inner workings knows there is an issue in balance even if you don't.
The brain & not you sets your subconscious limits as to what it sees as safe or unsafe to do. If you force the issue the primitive fight/flight part of the brain is activated. The brain is saying stop I see danger. Each time you respond inappropriately the stronger the survival portion activates. I am not talking about the same thing as Phobic fears due from say a fear of driving due to a wreck. That can be treated the thing I am talking about can not.
Balance comes from the Labyrinth and Inner Ear. This in part determines also how loud something can sound to you. It can determine even how you walk. It also tells you Hey you have poor balance get off the roof, climb down the ladder. I use a cane now for balance. When I was about 12 therapist were working with me so I could walk a balancing beam a foot off the floor. It can go back to early childhood and be caused by simple sinus allergies or ear infections.
So why weren't previous vets bothered as much by noise? Many things changes most notable is the technology expansion from the 1960's on. TV went from B&W one or two scenes with a conservation in a living room being a show to color TV to high action TV and high definition. That has happened since my childhood and I'm 56. TV is but one piece. Roads are more crowded and traffic requires far more concentration. Your brain is juggling more and more task than your dad was. Video games were low tech even in the mid 1980's today they are virtual reality.
Go to any store and try to shop and keep you focus on it. Lowes for example. You go in and think let's see now I need 20 2X4's and "Someone in plumbing come to register six". I need 20 2X4's and "lawn and Garden line one". I need 20 2X4's and "Beep Beep Beep Beep excuse me Sir were closing this asile to use the forklift". Each time your thought process is distracted. Same thing at Walmart. Let's see I need a furnace filter and "Electronics Line One" I need furnace filters and "I need a member of management to receiving". You get the idea.
Now most persons can juggle it fairly easy. Someone with Inner Ear issues? Nope because your concentration and ability to handle several processes at once become difficult. Watch next time you go in and see who gets agitated when the announcements start. Watch for persons leaving cart with stuff in them and heading for the door. They likely have no clue what is bothering them except they want the heck out of their.
Now a person with PTSD may not even have this issue because their Vestibular System and sensory processing is intact. It would be much easier to treat in that case. But if they have Vestibular issues and PTSD the Vestibular issues can play on the PTSD or make it seem the sounds are triggering PTSD when in reality they are triggering Panic Attacks because the guy has neurological damage with his PTSD.
The worse part is the doctors who treat PTSD are clueless to this or even the link of Panic Attacks many times actually being Vestibular dysfunction. I don't get scared I get agitated. The PTSD for me was different. It was like someone popped in a bad movie of some things I went through and a dread it was going to happen again or having to relive it up to several times a day especially when I was tired and needed to get some sleep. I wasn't ever in combat. I did 4 and got out. Did a year in the Army NG and got out.
I lost my 1st wife when she was 23 to a heart attack. I then met someone else and got serious. On a date of sorts she becomes a quadriplegic and nearly dies getting to the ER. Doc says she'll never walk and he was right. We marry and she has two teenagers. A couple years later I get the parents dreaded call a car wreck one of them hurt bad. I drive to the scene as the R.S. and FD is covering her body. The car is totaled and it was her side hit. I look at the car and thnk the worse. Paramedic I knew walks up and says she's alive but we got to cut her out. At hospital doc says she may never walk again after he has tried to rebuild her knee cap. After that wife nearly dies again from medication adverse reaction. Then after that I have a wreck. Woman in Honda Accordion rear ends my 78 K-5. I get out to check and her baby is in front seat eyes closed. It was a hard hit. I freak thinking kid is hurt. No the baby slept through it. A month later WHAM!!!! One person yells at someone down the hall from me at work and I about go through the ceiling. Then came the brain fog. I'd done had one episode before a few months earlier driving down the interstate that lasted about 30 minutes. This time it wasn't stopping. I called in a relief worker and a ride home.
That was 20 years ago.
The pieces I have learned has taken years. Mental Health professionals the ones who deal with PTSD do not look deep for other causes or other disorders that may be conflicting each other. That is why I'm saying a long term reaction to sounds even after being treated for PTSD points to a potential other issue. That issues to live with it and half way function takes understanding it and going against for the most part the textbook treatments being used because it is non phobic. It also makes a very huge difference in the types of meds used.
The nature of combat rather the environmental noise of combat is where a person would expect to get Inner Ear damage.
There are fireworks called “Mortars”... and for very good reasons. Wow.
The pit bulls cower in abject terror when those are being fired off.
Their hearing is much more sensitive. Believe it or not someone can be at 50% hearing loss and still be over sensitive to certain sounds.
Some of the responders have made some noises about how we combat vets should just sort of "man up" and get over everything - but they have no idea what effects are caused by putting young men into an environment where one small wrong move, one bit of inattention means immediate death or dismemberment.
Our country goes through phases where they appear to understand that turning young people into weapons and placing them into long periods of elevated risk will have effects. Most of the time, no: we are supposed to just fade into the woodwork and not bother them with our changes. (Which is better than some of the attention we got - remember all those awful movies and TV series that featured the "crazy Vietnam Vets". Guess everybody was disappointed that we didn't suddenly erupt into violence).
I had the privilege of meeting with many Marine and Army veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan while they were hospitalized for wounds at Bethesda and Walter Reed. They are the latest in a long river of the permanently affected for their country and I hope they will always be treated better than we were after our war.
Funny story: when I first got back from Vietnam in early '67, I went to a department store in Van Nuys California to visit a girlfriend who worked there. Just as I opened the tall glass doors to go in, a car backfired right behind me. I hit the ground hard and the glass doors closed on me, right around my midsection. I lay there struggling with those stupid doors and an older lady with a shopping bag walked up to me and asked if I was OK. I finally got free from the door and said "no thanks Ma'am - epilepsy" and slunk off.
‘That’s funny! You’re absolutely right: my favorite hobby always has been sailing because it is so relaxing. I never put it together before you mentioned it..’
That is funny. One of the best times of my life, too, was living on this lovely ketch (the Ann Marion) in Dago in the late 90’s. Sailing down the Ensenada or up to Catalina are treasured memories.
We give our dogs lorazepam - dog valium. Get it from the vet. Problem solved.
Exactly! The ones that get me are the ones that echo and whistle off building walls just like incoming 122mm and 152mm artillery. But after the first one it just makes me thankful to be where I am and that it's only fireworks.
Life is about moving forward, not wallowing in the past. In my experience it is those who faced the least who claim to be the most damaged, and those who faced the worst of war realize that they are blessed to have gotten through it and that they will now face much lesser challenges for the rest of their lives. A man is encouraged by earned respect, but diminished by pity and lowered expectations. It is time to stop today's debilitating pity party mentality while extending genuine assistance to these grown men as they get on with their lives.
More generally, what has happened to the American male? Boys have been conditioned by government schools and single mothers to think and behave just like the girls, and a huge growth industry of "mental health professionals" has sprung up to expand the parameters of mental illness into realms that past generations did not give a second thought. Where past American veterans modestly put themselves and their pasts in perspective and got busy with the rest of their lives, too many of today's veterans shout "Look at me!" as if everything is owed to them for the rest of their lives.
It doesn't help that a fawning public, raised on feelings, now exalts victimhood and cannot distinguish it from true heroism. I knew only a handful of genuine heroes in my two decades in the Marine Corps, and their extraordinary exploits and bravery are diminished when every veteran is called a "hero" just for serving. But every kid gets a trophy now.
Veterans should be respected for their service, but it is dangerous to place any group on a pedestal above all other citizens for very long. "Military" and "law enforcement" along with miscellaneous government officials are already worshiped too much and therefore scrutinized too little, and the last thing we need is another favored group peeled off from the rest of the citizenry that they ostensibly serve(d). Mark this: if you treat anyone as if he is above the rest for very long, he will come to believe it and to act like it to the detriment of all. Citizen soldiers and veterans deserve a polite and respectful "Thank you" but in the end, they are Citizens like everybody else.
Thus concludes this veteran's rant! Semper Fidelis...
I happened to be in a hotel that was attacked by suicide bomb terrorists with a bullet entering my room. A few months later I was in Bangkok with our hotel room overlooking the river. Little did I know that to celebrate the king’s 80th birthday as his boat went down he river, the fireworks would go off parallel with our window. It’s funny now, but when that happened back then I immediately hit the floor.
My fear is that the fireworks will land in the crowds, which has been known to happen.........
I've taken Xanax for over 20 years. I have two choices. Seizure or take the pill. I had a cousin who did 2 tours in Nam. He came back OK or as good as anyone could have. He eventually retired at his 20 year mark in about 1980. He got a job and everything seemed to be going fine till the mid 1990's and he started having trouble with sounds bothering him. He underwent many test like I did all negative. Finally he went to a semi retired GP. The GP asked questions. Did you have ear issues as a child like tubes or ear infections? He said yes. Did you go to Nam? He said yes. Did you wear hearing protection? He said how could you? Doctor checked a few more minutes and said I know what's wrong. You have Inner Ear Damage from childhood and Nam. I can't cure it but I can treat it. His wasn't as severe as mine. But he spent thousands of dollars on testing.
Part of what has happened is the ability to filter noises is damaged. The dripping faucet when your trying to sleep thing. Noises sound louder at first than what they are. In my case the damage is so severe I have seizures from noises. I can also be visually triggered.
It's not a matter of it's in your head move on as some would like to think it is. It's neurological damage that has to be understood to live with it. It can begin many years after the damage is initially done and stress seems to be the what finally sets it off.