Fireworks trigger traumatic flashbacks for some veterans

(Photo: WCMH)

PICKERINGTON, OH (WCMH) – Combat veteran Jeremy Clark fought for the freedoms the country celebrates on the Fourth of July, but he can’t enjoy the holiday like many do: with fireworks.

“With PTSD, it’s an invisible wound,” says Clark. “It’s a real physical change in our brains.”

Clark is a retired technical sergeant from the United States Air Force. He has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury. He served in Iraq and encountered 14 roadside bombs during his service.

Hearing fireworks can bring back stressful, traumatic flashbacks.

“It just puts you back into that mindset, that you’re in a war zone,” he said. “If you hear a bottle rocket go off in the middle of the night, it kind of just reminds you of that time and Iraq and so it affects you and puts you in the fight-or-flight mode. It kind of sets you off it kind of sets off those triggers.”

Clark said the sound fireworks put him in the mindset of a nighttime gunfire battle or mortar attack in Iraq.

“There were some fireworks yesterday and my anxiety was quite high,” he said. “I become tense, aggravated. I have this explosive amount of energy I have to put somewhere. It’ll come out vocally; it’ll come out physically.”

Clark knows about all the planned firework shows around him.

“I will return back here to the garage. I have a loud stereo in here. I’ll put my headphones on. I’ll just spend time in here by myself try to escape the noise.”

So, if you’re planning on firing off fireworks in your backyard, think about those who live around you first.

“Be kind, be courteous,” Clark said. “You never know what anyone’s internal battle is, so be courteous to those around you.”

To get a sign to put in your front yard that identifies that a combat veterans lives at your home, click here.

Related: 8 Things You Need To Know Before Lighting Fireworks

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