‘It takes you back’: How fireworks can trigger veterans with PTSD

Military

“I used to rent a hotel room by an airport to try and get away.”

It’s one of the ways veteran Tom Moran used to distract himself from fireworks. Hoping the planes’ jets would mask the loud rumblings fireworks make.

His goal this time of the year: getting the community to take into consideration the veterans in their neighborhood before igniting the pyrotechnics.

Moran works as a coordinator for the Military Veteran Peer Network. Before, Moran served with the U.S. Marines and the Texas Army National Guard. During his service, he did three tours in Iraq and was wounded twice.

One of his first experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder came in 2010 when he came back from his final tour.

“I was at an apartment complex and it was 2:00 in the morning and you don’t expect big fireworks there. Before you know it, people started popping fireworks and for a moment you don’t realize where you are and it takes you back.”

For Moran, it’s not the fireworks he might encounter at a ballgame or venue. It’s the ones that pop unexpectedly.

Fireworks can be a trigger for veterans who’ve experienced combat trauma.

“It can bring up reoccurring thoughts. It can cause panic attacks. It can even cause someone to think they’re back in that moment,” veteran therapist Amanda Brockway said.

Brockway recommends friends and family members to help comfort a veteran. She recommends reaching out to neighbors to determine if someone close by plans to use fireworks.

Brockway telling KTSM one of the signs of PTSD is isolation. “They can become untrusting of others, starting to feel like no one else can relate,” she said.

During the week of 4th of July, many veterans will not be able to completely avoid the fireworks. That’s where Brockway recommends to invest it ear protection such as noise cancellation headphones or earplugs.

For Tom Moran, he doesn’t want the celebrations to completely stop. He just asks the community to think of the servicemembers who fought for this country.

“We’re not asking for anybody to not celebrate. That’s what we fought for…It’s a small price that we pay, the anxiety, the PTSD. So this stigma that we can’t handle fireworks, I believe that it’s far from the truth.”

If a veteran is experiencing signs of PTSD, they can reach out to the El Paso Veterans One-Stop Center or call 4-1-1 for resources.

If there is an emergency, dial 9-1-1.

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