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For many veterans, Fourth of July fireworks bring memories of the battleground

A veteran who now works in behavioral health said that fireworks could remind members of the military about artillery and gunfire, prompting emotional responses.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — For many people, fireworks may bring reminders of hot dogs and cookouts to celebrate national holidays. However, for many veterans, fireworks bring reminders of much more horrific times.

They can trigger memories of the battlefield, or other painful memories where they heard similar booms and bangs from guns and artillery. People with post-traumatic stress disorder may avoid fireworks to avoid the memories, and hearing them unexpectedly can trigger an emotional response.

"On the Fourth of July, most veterans are going someplace where they aren't going to hear it but in the same respect, just like we just experienced right here, is that they're going to be firing them off in the daytimes as well," said Barry Floyd, a retired Navy Chief Petty Officer Hospital Corpsman.

He now works in behavioral health, helping other veterans manage PTSD and continue living with painful memories. He helps them predict triggers and takes steps to avoid them and shows them how to manage emotions if something does bring back those experiences.

"The sudden noise could be a door slamming or something like that could cause us to revert back," said Floyd. "I'll probably have my music on, my earbuds, to where I am focusing on my music."

He said that many people in a community may not realize their neighbors struggle with PTSD while setting off fireworks. To help increase awareness around holidays like the Fourth of July, some organizations distribute yard signs that people can place to show they could have trouble with fireworks.

If you are a veteran, you can request one for free from Military With PTSD. The signs ask neighbors to be considerate and understanding around the holiday. Neighbors can also let each other know ahead of time if they plan to shoot fireworks, giving possible veterans living nearby time to prepare.

"It's okay not to be okay, and it's okay to ask for help," said Floyd.

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