Veterans, fireworks and PTSD: The aftermath of combat

Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 9:45 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - This weekend booms and pops will echo through the night as people fill the skies with fireworks to celebrate our country’s freedom and the ones who died for it.

But some may not take into account how that noise can affect veterans who fought for our country.

“A couple of times it will catch you off guard. I know a lot of veterans will put signs outside of their house and ask you not to do it,” said retired Army Sgt. Philander Kerry.

According to Veterans Affairs, those loud bangs can trigger anxiety in combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dr. Jeffrey Fine, a PTSD specialist, says most veterans with PTSD try to avoid fireworks.

However, that’s not the case for retired army sergeant Philander Kerry, who says he has always enjoyed popping fireworks with his family even after coming home from deployment.

“When you’re actually lighting them and seeing them, it’s different then a sudden pop,” Kerry said.

Which he heard a lot of while serving in Afghanistan, where most of his PTSD stems from. Thankfully, he says he had a strong support system to get him through.

“I had a great support chain with my wife and cousins and stuff I would call home and my cousin would say, “Hey bruh, I’m here to listen.” And I would say whatever I had to say,” Kerry said.

Even with the strong support through his PTSD, there are just some memories from combat that he’ll never forget.

“We were out doing a regular patrol mission and on our way home, we got hit,” Kerry said. “We were doing a foot patrol and we got hit with a IED that was inside of a wall.”

He says that explosion took out two Afghan officers, which made it even harder for his platoon to get to safety.

“It was just rough, and intel is coming over the radio saying we were about to get hit again,” Kerry said.

He says you can’t truly understand it unless you fought for our country.

“I can’t break it down into words how it is, but you see a U.S. soldier standing up there with that American flag on him, and you know that you and your boys are safe, the weight of the world falls off your shoulders and you feel good,” Kerry said.

The loud bangs of fireworks can bring back memories of combat similar to this for some soldiers coping with PTSD.

So when you’re out celebrating this Fourth of July, be mindful and respectful of any veteran neighbors who may be struggling.

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