SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Fireworks during the Fourth of July are just as American as baseball and apple pie.
But for some combat veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the pyrotechnics can bring anxiety, a panic attack or even a flashback.
“Flashback comes, you don’t want to mess with us, put it like that. You don’t want to mess with us,” said an ArkLaTex man who wanted to be identified only as Kenneth.
Kenneth served 21 years in the Army then left the battlefield and retired years ago, bringing PTSD home with him.
He described having to cope with it each and every day since leaving the Army in 2001.
"Dreams. Bad dreams of things that I've seen."
Down deep, Kenneth said, the battlefield never really left him.
And PTSD symptoms appear much more often than just during the Fourth of July holiday, he added.
"We have, um, got up with pistols in our hand. You know, I mean, we protected the nation."
Veterans who suffer from PTSD tell us it’s not actually the Fourth of July when the fireworks cause problems. That’s because they are expecting fireworks to go off that night.
Instead, they say, it might be the day after or the day before the Fourth of July when fireworks are far more likely to surprise them.
Overton Brooks VA Medical Center serves veterans from throughout the region who often suffer in silence from PTSD until they receive help at the Shreveport hospital.
Staffers, like recovery coordinator Alesia Davis, told KSLA News 12 the public is urged to do its part to help ease a soldier’s pain.
"One of the things we want to encourage is for people to be mindful of their neighbors, if the neighbors are veterans who served in combat."
Kenneth said during the rest of the year, when there are no fireworks, gunfire they hear in their neighborhoods also can trigger PTSD symptoms.
Experts suggest two ideas to avoid fireworks from triggering someone with PTSD.
One is for them to use noise-cancelling headphones.
The other idea: Have an escape plan ready just in case you need to quickly leave a fireworks show.