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Fourth of July fireworks can trigger PTSD in veterans

There are over 100,000 veterans in WNY
Posted at 6:36 PM, Jul 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-02 18:36:55-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Around Independence day, it's common for people to light up their own fireworks to celebrate. While this is exciting for some, it can bring up trauma for others.

"They might be at a place in their life where they’re doing okay then the 4th of July comes and it sets them back 10 paces," said veteran and founder of WNY Heroes, Inc. Chris Kreiger.

He says veterans often escape to the country or go camping to avoid the loud noises.

There are more than 100,000 veterans in Western New York, according to Kreiger. Nationwide, the number of veterans with PTSD varies by service, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

  • Iraq War: 11-20%
  • Gulf War (Desert Storm): 12%
  • Vietnam War: 30%

"It’s being like shell shocked so it’s a reminder of being in wartime like in a conflict," said Desert Storm veteran Eric Artis about fireworks.

Fireworks are legal in New York, but not all fireworks.

"They do allow ground fireworks, sparklers, stuff that you light off, nothing that is airborne, nothing with a pop or a bang, that's against the law," said Lewiston Police Chief Frank Previte.

People often travel across state lines to Pennsylvania to buy fireworks they can't get here, according to Chief Previte.

It's the impromptu fireworks that often trigger veterans, according to Jillian Johnson, Marketing and Development Manager at Veteran One-Stop Center.

"When it’s expected, that’s okay, the veterans can prepare for it. But if it’s at 3 or 4am when no one’s prepared, it’s a shock," said Johnson.

In order to let people know there's a combat veteran in the area, people have been placing lawn signs, in hopes to lessen the number of fireworks near them.

Johnson also suggests telling veterans when you plan to set off fireworks so they can prepare.