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Firework sounds can trigger PTSD

Veterans share experiences

veterans fireworks stress

PARSONS, Ks - Fireworks are a big part of the 4th of July but can trigger trauma for some people. Particularly veterans. Two veterans in Parsons have different ways of coping. 

“The no, no!  The Saturn missiles,” Josh Ghering showed his son Brady a firework that he won’t buy. After serving three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, some fireworks remind Ghering of war.

"(Whistle) They sound like that. Hear it?” he asked his son as video and sound  of a  Saturn missile was played in a store.

Ghering explained, "That's probably the closest I’ve heard that sounds  quite a bit like an RPG,  a rocket propelled grenade. Um, and that still sends kind of shivers down my spine when  I hear one. Cause it’s a sound you’ll never forget."

It’s news to Brady. "I like ‘em, but I didn’t know my dad was having trouble till now so, I feel kind of bad. I wouldn't know what was going on." 

For Josh it’s Saturn missiles but for some with post-traumatic stress disorder, something as simple as a firecrackers can be a trigger.

Dr. Stephanie Terrell, a licensed psychologist with Freeman Health System, explained the trauma triggered, "It  feels very real, very vivid. It’s like their reliving the entire trauma again." 

PTSD sufferer and veteran Don Burris has experienced it. “You know, your emotions or your body or  your reflexes, it’s something you have no control over. And you, physically will move you and mentally will take you back to a place you don’t want to go to. And you wanna repress that and stay away from that memory.”

  Burris is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, who's  own PTSD isn’t military related. Still, fireworks are something he avoids. “Normally, I kind of hibernate and stay away from the big  noises and stuff. The  past several  years it’s just something I  don’t want to be a part of. Honestly, I love the 4th of July, I’m just not  really fond of the fireworks and the big booms,” he said.

Ghering said, "There's been times when I've been driving,  heard one explode, my heart will race, palms will start to get  sweaty, things like that." 

But  Ghering said   he likes enjoying fireworks with his kids. He said  fireworks far in the distance are more disturbing than those he sees being fired. 

Josh explained, "So, if I can watch them and I know they're going to explode, I’m fine. It’s there. Nothing’s gonna bother me. And it also having my wife and kids there with me. And listening  to  them as I’m focused  and seeing the  excitement  they're  having from the fireworks as well."

Dr. Terrell says that’s being grounded in the here and now. “Being very present in the present moment, not thinking about the past not thinking about the future. So, if you can see what’s happening you’re more likely to stay focused on this is just a firework.” 

Brady took home a firework called Sacrifice. Something his dad did in fighting for his country. And what does it mean to him when it lights up the sky?  Brady said, “Freedom, liberty and happiness, joy.”

Dr. Terrell said anyone feeling a PTSD flashback or panic attack because of fireworks can try a grounding technique. It’s called the  5,4 3,2, 1 method.  Look in the room for five things you can see, four you can touch, three you can hear, two you can smell and one you can taste.  That should help bring you back to the present.


 

 

 

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