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'Feels like you want to take cover': KC-area veteran, VA talk about PTSD treatment around of Fourth of July

Posted: 9:36 PM, Jul 03, 2024
Updated: 2024-07-05 10:26:24-04
Jackie Lee – Veteran

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Every year around the Fourth of July, conversations are had about the complex relationship between veterans and fireworks.

The Veteran Affairs is continuing the dialogue this year because they want to encourage treatment.

KSHB 41's Grant Stephens heard the voices of veterans and the doctors treating them.

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"The half sticks of dynamite, the M-80s or whatever, the large stuff like that, it does remind me of when I was in Kuwait and we would hear explosions sometimes," said Jackie Lee, a Kansas City-area veteran. "And you know, it feels like you want to take cover."

Jackie Lee
Veteran Jackie Lee

There are nearly 500,000 veterans living in Kansas and Missouri.

Statistically, 35,000 of them have experienced PTSD.

"Those really loud noises, I get startled," Lee said.

And like Lee, some of then find it hard to temper the sometimes overwhelming fight or flight response they experience when when they're triggered by fireworks.

"Just kind of want to be to myself," he said. "I'm pretty good around my wife and kids, but for the most part I don't want to be around anybody."

Dr. Nicholas Heinecke works at the VA's PTSD Clinic and works with veterans like Lee.

Dr. Nicholas Heinecke
Dr. Nicholas Heinecke

"A lot of times around this time, you'll have that withdrawal," Heinecke said. "'Let me try to cope and get through this.' 'How can I distract myself?' That type of thing. That's good for the short term, but then the long term, how can we get you into some kind of treatment?"

Lee said comradery is the biggest thing he misses about the military, but it's something he's found at a VA guitar group.

Jackie Lee and his guitar group
Jackie Lee and his guitar group

"There's hope out there that we can actually see those symptoms get better," Heinecke said.

Their message isn't to get rid of loud sounds like fireworks, but to encourage veterans to seek out help.

"It's real for these veterans" Lee said.

Heinecke weighed in, "But then from there, you want to see that broaden out to, 'How do I get back to living?' I kind of talk about we're in survival mode when we're dealing with PTSD, let's get back into living mode."