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Independence Day fireworks can ignite painful memories for veterans

Posted: 3:59 PM, Jul 03, 2017
Updated: 2017-07-03 17:47:41-04
Holiday celebrations can trigger veterans' PTSD
Holiday celebrations can trigger veterans' PTSD

For many Americans, the 4th of July is a cause for celebration, but for veterans suffering from PTSD, the cracks and booms of celebratory fireworks can feel like a nightmare.

"Crowds that seem oppressive, or driving which can go back to some of their military experiences, or the loud noises," said Walter D. Disney, who is a therapist at  Disney Family Therapy

Disney was a Navy Seal for 13 years. Now, he’s made it his mission to help others fighting a battle similar to his.

"I'm not afraid to go into dark places and rescue souls and because that's really what you have to work with," said Disney. 

Working now as a therapist, Disney says it’s the sights and sounds of the holiday that can make veterans feel like they’re reliving their past.

"Being in that fight or flight mode for so long, when you come back from war, you still kind of have that response even though the triggers are vastly different," said Justin Hoover, Warriors' Ascent .

Even things that seem so simple like driving to your destination can be a trigger.

"When he was in Afghanistan taking a wrong turn could mean an IED and death, not only for himself but for his company," said Disney. 

If the holiday proves to be too much, some veterans will retreat into a quiet room, isolating themselves, but that’s not always the best option.

"Often times in the military they use the term 'battle buddy,' but have somebody that can be there that says, 'it's okay, I’m right here, I’m not going to leave you, it's okay, you're safe,'" said Disney. 

A local group called Warriors’ Ascent is working to provide that "battle buddy" support creating a community you can turn to.

"It really helps you kind of right the ship instead of just throwing out all the tools and skills saying 'oh well, this didn't work for me.' You can go to someone and they can kind of remind you, 'yeah, it's a tough day but this will pass,'" said Hoover.   

Warriors’ Ascent is a 5-day program for veterans suffering from PTSD. It provides the tools, training and support for healing.