Fireworks and veterans with PTSD: What to know before setting off your backyard display

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“A lot of veterans will not tell you they have issues with it — they don’t want to spoil the Fourth of July,” says AMVETS National Commander Jan Brown. (Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – In many parts of the country where they’re legal — and probably in many places where they’re not — the sounds of fireworks and firecrackers have been heralding the Fourth of July holiday for weeks. It’s certainly exciting, at least for those who appreciate the nightly noises and backyard displays, but it’s important to remember that these sounds may put unnecessary stress on some members of the community.

“A lot of veterans will not tell you they have issues with it — they don’t want to spoil the Fourth of July,” says AMVETS National Commander Jan Brown.

“Some have learned to deal with it. For others, it is an issue,” she added. “And I’m not telling people not to have their fireworks, but just be considerate. Maybe don’t shoot them off after 11 p.m.”

Brown, a 27-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, also admits that plenty of former military members (like herself) actually enjoy and look forward to their local fireworks displays. But for those who don’t, including any that suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, at least they can usually predict when to expect the most activity, and prepare themselves accordingly.

This year, however, is shaping up to be a bit different.

At-home celebrations amid the pandemic, along with surging sales of fireworks, could be contributing to prolonged celebrations. Brown, for example, claims she’s been hearing fireworks since June, and she expects the activity to continue well past Independence Day.

In the interest of being a considerate neighbor, Brown suggests letting the professionals handle the fireworks displays, especially upon learning of a neighbor who might be sensitive to the sound of explosions. At the very least, she says, it’s a good idea to refrain from shooting off fireworks weeks before — or after — the holiday.

“We should be considerate of all our neighbors, pets, veterans — anybody that has issues with loud noises,” Brown says.  “Could be first responders, small children. It’s not just a veteran issue or a pets issue, it’s a ‘being-a-good-neighbor’ issue. … Save it for special occasions as opposed to the entire month.”

Of course, Brown says she’d never ask anyone to give up their fireworks, especially if she isn’t willing to make concessions in return.

“It’s a fine line to walk,” she says. “I don’t think that we should stop having them because a couple of animals and people have issues with it. People have issues with everything. But if they know when it’s going to happen, they can take precautions.

“It’s just something you need to be aware of, if your neighbor might be sensitive,” she said. “Whether you do anything with [that information] … let your conscience be your guide.”

AMVETS, a veterans-service organization founded in 1944, advocates for veterans of the US military and provides services to improve the quality of life for its members and their families.

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