Fireworks: Holiday Tradition, but Yearly Reminders for American Veterans

UNITED STATES  --  Many people across the nation will end their 4th of July celebrations by watching a fireworks display, but what many see as a harmless family-friendly tradition can be a stressful event for those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

Joe Khalil of FOX40 talked to a Vietnam veteran who shares the anxiety he struggles with each year on this holiday as fireworks bring him back to the horrors of the battlefield.

"It's my anxiety and my depression, I'm trying to get away from the noise," said veteran Richard Tincher.

Tincher lives in Mather Village, a complex built exclusively for military veterans. He says when he--and many of his neighbors-- hears the explosions of fireworks, it triggers his PTSD.

"I kind of, like, turn the TV up, shut the windows," he said.

Some veterans' cases of PTSD at Mather Village are worse than others, but any fireworks show nearby could trigger quite a few people.

"You're sitting on your couch and all the sudden there's this loud explosion outside, those are the ones that trigger the memories that are putting you back into your deployment time," said James Brashear.

Brashear is the commander of the West Sacramento Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter. He says some vets avoid big firework shows, but even inside their homes they can't avoid hearing loud firework explosions in their neighborhoods.

"You're setting off explosives next to a guy who's been blown up for a year, it's gonna cause problems. My heart rate immediately jumps, shortness of breath," he said.

Brashear said he doesn't think people always recognize what veterans go through, and while neither Brashear or Tincher expect--or necessarily want--fireworks shows to stop, they think people lighting off fireworks near their homes should get to know their neighbors; one of them could be a veteran reliving the war from their living room.

Those struggling with PTSD can react to fireworks in different ways. While it may trigger feelings of anger and rage in some, others may experience depression and a host of other psychological problems. Many experts suggest those suffering from PTSD have honest conversations with their neighbors to lessen the chances of fireworks being set off near or close to the homes of those suffering.