Non-profit hopes to make 4th of July easier for Veterans with PTSD

Fourth of July celebrations are this weekend and fireworks are often no fun for combat veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

A non-profit called "Military With PTSD" sends signs out free of charge to combat vets that say "Combat Veteran lives here.  Please be courteous with fireworks."

Dr. Sharon Wills is the head of the PTSD clinic at the Central Texas VA.  She thinks it's a great idea because the fireworks problem is something that often embarrasses vets.  The signs make it easier.

Wills says the vast majority of her patients experience these issues.

"The veteran I was just treating today said 'this is the worst holiday of the year.'  He said 'I worry about it all year long.'  He said 'I just kind of go into hiding until it's over with,'" Wills said.

Christopher Araujo is a coordinator with the Military Veteran Peer Network.  The 15-year Army vet with PTSD says Fourth of July celebrations don't bother him because he knows they're coming.

"I understand that there's going to be fireworks and I love fireworks!  You know it's a big part of celebrating the Fourth of July.  So when I know that it's happening, I can pretty much prepare myself for it," Araujo said.

He says when he doesn't expect it...that's when it's a problem for him.

Dr. Wills echoed that.

"It's not so much the noise, it's the unpredictability of it," Wills said.

Like when pyrotechnics went off at a Motley Crue concert he was attending.

"I tensed up.  I got very nervous and I actually almost hit the floor," Araujo said.

Araujo actually sets fireworks off himself.

"I had a veteran years ago who actually volunteered to do the fireworks in his community because at least he was in control.  And he could predict when it would go off.  And that solved the problem for him," Wills said.

Dr. Wills says if you have issues with fireworks, prepare yourself mentally, use ear plugs and do relaxation techniques.

Araujo says veterans shouldn't seclude themselves during the festivities.

"What we don't want to see are veterans that are going to be secluding themselves on certain holidays.  Its' really not...it's not healthy.  We need to partake in these events, know that they're happening and be able to lead that productive life out there," Araujo said.

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