Fireworks can cause problems for veterans with PTSD

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KSPR) - This time of year, fireworks are very easy to find, they’re cheap, and they can be a lot of fun. But some veterans have a different take on the explosives.

“People don’t really understand when a veteran says they have issues about fireworks,” said veteran Greg Roeder, “They think that it’s a fear factor type of thing. It’s not necessarily that the veteran is afraid of the fireworks. It’s more of a heightened awareness.”

Roeder says a few years ago, he was diagnosed with PTSD, posttraumatic stress disorder. He says veterans with the condition have an elevated level of awareness.

“They live at an awareness level of about 8-9, out of a scale of 10 all the time. Whereas an average citizen just walking around, enjoying their day, lives at about a one or a two,” he explained.

Roeder says he served in the Army for about ten years, and went on several deployments.

“Bosnia… Cuba, Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Panama, all of those type of deployments. Just went overseas quite a bit,” he said.

He says loud noises aren’t a problem, but he says veterans can have an issue when explosions take them by surprise.

“Ironically enough, I work here at a gun shop, and we have a gun range,” he said, “That doesn’t bother me because I know exactly where the next sound is going to be coming from. I know where the guns are, I know where people are going to be firing from the firing line. Fireworks is just a random explosion. Who knows where it’s coming from.”

Scott Kelley is a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War. He says the sudden, unexpected noises get to him.

“I was on a destroyer escort, our primary job was anti-submarine warfare,” Kelley said.

However, he says he had it easy compared to most soldiers who fought in the war.

“Those guys who were slogging through them jungles, through the rice paddies,” he remembered.

Kelley says he’s never been diagnosed with PTSD. But he says he avoids fireworks, and loud noises.

Veterans like Kelley and Roeder aren’t asking people to skip the fireworks. They’re just asking you to be courteous of those who served.

“If they know that they’ve got a veteran living next door, if they think that maybe 11:00 at night is a good time to stop the fireworks, so the veterans can to sleep, that might be a good idea,” Roeder said.