Be Mindful of Combat Veterans this 4th of July

Bonnie Johnson - Friday, July 01, 2016
Be Mindful of Combat Veterans this 4th of July

The United States Department of Veteran Affairs estimates that up to 20% of veterans from the post-9/11 Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.PTSD is a mental health disorder that can develop after exposure to a traumatic event from their past; this can be an actual or near threat of death, serious injury, sexual violence, car collisions or warfare.The list is very long for what can cause it, and the symptoms of PTSD can include racing or intrusive thoughts, uncontrollable flashbacks of the event causing sufferers to effectively relive the trauma, inducing or in tandem with severe anxiety, nightmares, aggression, and depression or despondency.

Besides visual triggers from the pop of the firework that results in flashing lights, triggers can also include smell (like spent powder) or auditory sensory, such as the explosion of fireworks or even the escalating shriek of a bottle rocket, which may unnervingly remind a veteran of the sound of an incoming mortar. PTSD can be so strong that someone suffering from it can literally lose their sense of where they are, what they’re doing, or what span of time they’re living in.

Per the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, Washington has just shy of 604,000 veterans as of 2014, which is a population saturation surpassed only a handful of other states.This number does not include our current military members and those deployed overseas.

This is not a new issue, and has been documented as early as the Vietnam era, as our Armed Forces tried to reacclimatize to life after war, only to find that treatment offered at the time wasn’t effective enough. PTSD was introduced in the third edition of the Diagnostical and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders in 1980, and was considered controversial at the time, but made huge leaps in addressing gaps in treatment for military members as well as the general populace.

While many who are affected and know they may need extra space could be heading off to rural areas this Independence Day, those just returning from combat may not have had a triggering experience or know that they’re suffering from the condition.We all know to be mindful of our neighbors when it comes to things like fireworks or get-togethers, but if you personally know someone, in passing or in friendship, please let them know in advance that you plan on setting them off.

Additionally, there is a movement underway that’s gaining popularity which takes the guesswork out of the equation. There are signs available to military members, made of red ,white and blue and posted in their lawns which reads, “Combat Veteran Lives Here. Please be courteous with fireworks”. Those who support the movement stress that this doesn’t mean you cannot light off fireworks, it just means that at the very least, those men and women who fought for our country deserve a warning.If they need to mentally prepare or leave the area, advance notice will prepare them for it.

Fireworks are illegal within the city limits of Everett, but that doesn’t stop many from using them, or using them early in the season. If you need to report illegal activity, please call 425-407-3999. Please be considerate of all laws, safety measures, the heightened fire risk currently, and of your neighbors.