By Stephanie Stahl
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Big Fourth of July festivities coming up this holiday weekend, but for some veterans a popular tradition can trigger painful memories.
Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl explains how one group is trying to raise awareness about the dark side of Independence Day.
They’re supposed to be fun, entertaining and patriotic, but fireworks can be tormenting for some veterans.
“That first mortar tube boom, boom it instantly reminded me of being back in combat and hearing the indirect fire from motor tubes,” said U.S. Veteran Gregory Coats.
Greg Coats was wounded in Iraq. He says the battle didn’t end once he returned home. On one July 4th, Greg found himself in full combat mode again.
“I jump up and I’m reaching for my rifle just like I would do in the streets of Ramadi in Iraq or whatever theatre you served in. It absolutely set me back there in less than the blink of an eye,” said Coats.
Experts say the loud noises and blasts that come with fireworks can bring traumatic combat memories for veterans suffering with PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder.
“That fear, panic is just as real as if something had just happened to them,” said retired Major General Rita A. Aragon.
Now a non-profit called Military with PTSD is trying to raise awareness. The group’s Facebook page has gone viral with over 21 million views.
And they’re distributing signs that read “Combat veteran lives here, please be courteous with fireworks.”
The message is mainly aimed at people with backyard firecrackers.
“It’s just the unexpected stuff, the unexpected bangs. One it embarrasses me, because I show weakness,” said Coats.
Experts say people with PTSD should avoid triggers when possible.
And it’s not just vets who can have trouble with fireworks, they can also be frightening to young children. Headphones or ear plugs to reduce the noise can be helpful.