Veteran Talks Openly About How Fireworks Impact PTSD Community

DES MOINES, Iowa --While fireworks can be a source of joy for some, they can be a source of unneeded stress for others.

“I abhor fireworks,” said Vietnam Veteran Rick Lewis.

After talking Lewis, you begin to understand why. a rifleman in the Marines, he was almost killed after a rocket hit one of his squad-mates.

“We got out of our foxhole and we crawled over to him. We picked him up and was carrying him and then a round landed about 20 yards from us and I got shrapnel in my right ankle and my leg. It's very similar in sound, the whole thumping and then the explosion it's very similar to what we deal with here in fireworks,” said Lewis.

The time around the Fourth of July is stressful for Lewis. He has PTSD and tries to stay inside as much as he can, because there's plenty of people who ignore the laws around shooting fireworks inside city limits.

“The 24-hour period of July 3, so midnight to midnight, there were 74 calls we responded to. The overwhelming majority was between 9 p.m. and midnight. We didn't issue any citations but our officers were kept pretty busy though,” said Des Moines Police Spokesman Paul Parizek.

Lewis says his case of PTSD is mild compared to others and he's able to get through the Fourth of July noise, but, says it's always a good idea to check with veterans if you know they live in your neighborhood.

“If you know that your neighbor is a veteran, especially if they served in a combat scenario and you know that, be sensitive enough to approach your neighbor and say ‘Hey, we'd like to do this for our kids’ and I'd say 99.9 percent of the time they'll say yeah go for it,” said Lewis/

With that said, Lewis knows other veterans have a more difficult time with the fourth and wants to encourage veterans to communicate with each other if they're having trouble.

“I know a lot of guys who have just remained quiet and they don’t talk about it. There is such a healing process when you get together and reconnect with other marines that you served with and you talk things out. It's a real healing process,” he said.

Veterans can also go to militarywithptsd.org, the organization will send vets a free yard sign to them that will alert neighbors that a veteran with PTSD lives nearby and to be sensitive about their fireworks.

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