Fireworks Are a PTS Trigger — Here Is How to Make It Easier on Your Veteran Friends

By , Connecting Vets

Setting off fireworks for July Fourth is an American tradition.

But for veterans with post-traumatic stress (PTS), these loud sounds and flashes of light often bring up combat memories and trigger panic attacks, or worse. To help with this annual problem, Military with PTSD started the “Explosion of Kindness” campaign, as a way to help educate the public on the effects fireworks have on veterans dealing with PTS. If you're a veteran with PTS, you can order a sign that lets your neighbors know that fireworks bother you.

“On Fourth of July, fireworks are expected,” says Shawn J. Gourley, Executive Director, Military with PTSD. “It’s the veteran’s responsibility on that date to get themselves prepared or get themselves in a place where they can deal with the fireworks at hand. However, on the days leading up and directly after, if you’re going to be setting off fireworks, if you can just give them a heads up that would be the biggest help.”

According to VA’s National Center for PTSD, about eight out of every 100 people have PTS at some point in their lives. “We don’t want to stop fireworks,” Gourley says, “No veteran who served this country would want anyone to stop setting off fireworks. It’s the unexpected fireworks that get to them. The big fireworks shows don’t seem to bother them as much because they know what’s coming.”

Here are a few suggestions to help minimize the effects of fireworks on veterans in your neighborhood.

—Consider public firework displays instead of having one in your neighborhood.
—Talk to veterans in your area and find out if there are specific fireworks that are upsetting.
—Let your neighbors know when and where you’ll set off fireworks and how long you think it will last.
—Refrain from setting off fireworks at unexpected times during the day.
—Find a location that is least likely to disturb veterans.

Forty nine states allow some type of legal fireworks on the Fourth of July. Massachusetts is the only one that bans consumer fireworks. You can find what’s permitted, what’s prohibited and any insurance and permit regulations for your state at the American Pyrotechnics Association’s directory of state laws.