Celebrating July 4th while keeping your neighbors with PTS in mind

Jonathan Kaupanger
June 27, 2018 - 11:56 am



It’s our country’s birthday and we American’s sure do enjoy celebrating with a bang!  We let off fireworks that even have loud sounding names like Saturn Missile’s, Bad Ass Crackers, Air Defense and Da Big Bomb.

For veterans with post-traumatic stress (PTS), these loud sounds and flashes of light often bring up combat memories and trigger panic attacks, or worse.  To help with this annual problem, Military with PTSD started the “Explosion of Kindness” campaign, as a way to help educate the public on the effects fireworks have on veterans dealing with PTS.    

“On Fourth of July, fireworks are expected,” says Shawn J. Gourley, Executive Director, Military with PTSD.  “It’s the veteran’s responsibility on that date to get themselves prepared or get themselves in a place where they can deal with the fireworks at hand.  However, on the days leading up and directly after, if you’re going to be setting off fireworks, if you can just give them a heads up that would be the biggest help.”

According to VA’s National Center for PTSD, about eight out of every 100 people have PTS at some point in their lives.  “We don’t want to stop fireworks,” Gourley says, “No veteran who served this country would want anyone to stop setting off fireworks. It’s the unexpected fireworks that get to them. The big fireworks shows don’t seem to bother them as much because they know what’s coming.”

Here's a few suggestions to help minimize the effects of fireworks on veterans in your neighborhood.

  • Consider public firework displays instead of having one in your neighborhood
  • Talk to veterans in your area and find out if there are specific fireworks that are upsetting
  • Let your neighbors know when and where you’ll set off fireworks and about how long you think it will last
  • Refrain from setting fireworks off at unexpected times during the day
  • Find a location that is least likely to disturb vets

49 states allow some type of legal fireworks on the Fourth of July. Massachusetts is the only one that bans consumer fireworks. You can find what’s permitted, what’s prohibited and any insurance and permit regulations for your state at the American Pyrotechnics Association’s directory of state laws.

Contact us about this article or share your story at gethelp@connectingvets.com