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4th of July celebrations can be traumatic for combat veterans

Posted at 12:55 AM, Jul 04, 2023

EL PASO COUNTY — The 4th of July holiday is a celebration of America, but for veterans, fireworks can be traumatic, especially if they've been in combat.

The sounds, sights and even smell of fireworks can trigger a veteran's PTSD.

“I think the fourth of July is definitely one in particular that is challenging for veterans, those that have been in combat in particular, as you know, the loud noises and the crowds,” said Dustin Halliwell, a U.S. army veteran who was deployed several times when he served in the military from 2000 to 2004. He’s faced symptoms of PTSD after he finished serving.

“Obviously, combat environment, you've got weapons, firing mortar rockets, hitting a lot of different loud noises that could trigger traumatic memories or memories of being in a certain firefight or, you know, pretty intense combat situation,” said Halliwell.

He said watching fireworks at a ballgame or at a fireworks show, are a different than being caught off guard with loud fireworks in your neighborhood. He added it’s also the big crowds that made him want to isolate himself after he got out of the military.

On holidays, many also choose to escape the sounds of fireworks and the holiday by staying at home or in the basement.

“A lot of them a lot of them fall into a depression and and we tried to bring them out,” said Bobb Kidd, with the Cheyenne Mountain VFW Post 3197. “I have quite a few younger Iraq and Afghanistan veterans that have a really hard time with all these fireworks going off around the neighborhoods.”

Kidd said that’s why it’s important to him to create a safe space for veterans to go on holidays like the 4th of July. On Tuesday, the VFW Post 3197 will be hosting a picnic for local veterans.

“This is what we try to do for the for the community and our veterans within the community is to bring them out give them a place where they can come in and talk to people that have been through the same things,” said Kidd.

Kidd said the event is a safe space for veterans to have conversations, especially if they're having a hard time or want to de-escalate and relax.

“It’s trying to make sure they understand, that there's people here they can reach out to, so they can talk to us and we can talk to them, and kind of get them through the trying times of this six, seven days where the fireworks are going off,” said Kidd.

For many veterans like Halliwell, being connected and surrounded by other veterans is also helpful.

“Stay connected. Having people around you that that get it and that care makes a big difference,” said Halliwell, who also added it’s important to learn how to cope with the emotions you’re going through.

Veterans encourage people to celebrate respectfully and keep your veteran neighbors in mind. You could also speak to veterans beforehand if you know fireworks will be lit in your area.

A 4th of July picnic is also happening at the Cheyenne Mountain VFW Post 3917 from noon to three p.m.
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