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‘It puts you right back:’ Fireworks can be traumatic for veterans living with PTSD

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MILWAUKEE -- As we celebrate Independence Day, the sound of fireworks serve as a harsh relic for American heroes who have served our nation in times of war.

Fireworks shows are beautiful and cause many to look on in awe, but for veterans living with PTSD, the booming noises serve as a traumatic reminder.

“For some veterans, it can be disturbing. It can make you angry. It depends on the state of mind you’re in. Now that I have my dog with me though, I’m a lot more comfortable during times like that," said Benjamin Dupree, U.S. Marine Corps veteran/Operation Desert Storm.

The irony isn't lost on America's heroes who want to be patriotic and take part in Fourth of July festivities, but the inevitable trigger isn't worth it.

"The explosion. The explosion. Some people, in my case, I can only speak for me. In my case, it puts you right back. Especially if it’s unexpected. 'Bang!' You jump and you’re ready to duck -- basically what you trained to do," said John Ferron, Vietnam veteran.

A stigma remains surrounding PTSD, with many cases unreported and undiagnosed.

“There’s a certain integrity and a certain toughness about war veteran and they would like to be able to say yeah I’m tough and I defended our country…I’m this person who should be able to manage this or take care of this," said Dr. Sanam Hafeez, Columbia neuoropsychologist.

One nonprofit is working to address the issue. The group "Military with PTSD" sells yard signs to raise awareness.

"We always tell civilians, we tell everyone -- we don't want to stop fireworks. It's never been the intent of the signs. Veterans do not want you to stop celebrating your freedoms," said Shawn Gourley, "Military with PTSD" co-founder.

Even with treatment and possible solutions for those who have experienced the trauma of war and who have confronted PTSD head-on, the scars never go away.

"The war is never over, because your mind always bring it back to your recollection," said Ferron.

Some suggestions to cope with the noise during the Fourth of July holiday include hanging out with family and friends you feel comfortable with, or listening to loud music to drown it out.

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