Posted on Jun 24, 2015
SPC Jan Allbright, M.Sc., R.S.
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No one knows how many have a hard time dealing with fireworks, but an Indiana-based nonprofit has come up with one way to help those who do: red, white and blue lawn signs reading, “Combat Veteran Lives Here. Please Be Courteous with Fireworks.”

The lawn sign was the creation of Florida veteran Jon Dykes and distributed by the nonprofit, called Military with PTSD.
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(Note: Full article added by RP Staff.)

VALRICO, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — For Russell Cook, a combat-wounded Army veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, the barrage on his overloaded senses begins with fireworks explosions in his Florida neighborhood as the calendar turns to July.

“It’s hell,” said Cook, who laments that July 4th celebrations often don’t end for days. “It’s like I was back in the worst part of combat, with bullets flying and bombs going off.”

Cook is one of more than a quarter-million men and women who have traumatic stress disorder from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

No one knows how many have a hard time dealing with fireworks, but an Indiana-based nonprofit has come up with one way to help those who do: red, white and blue lawn signs reading, “Combat Veteran Lives Here. Please Be Courteous with Fireworks.”

The lawn sign was the creation of Florida veteran Jon Dykes and distributed by the nonprofit, called Military with PTSD.

“We posted it to our Facebook page on July 1, 2014, at 1:30 p.m.,” said Shawn Gourley, who with her husband, Justin Gourley, a Navy veteran with PTSD, created the organization. “It had a total of 21 million views last year.”

Gourley said the organization has sent almost 1,100 of the signs so far.

During his first tour in a combat zone at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Cook, now 33 and a medically retired staff sergeant, suffered traumatic brain injury from four roadside bomb explosions. His bases were routinely hit by mortar fire, and he and other members of the 501st Military Intelligence Battalion came under frequent small arms and machine gun fire.

It wasn’t until he returned to Germany, where his division was headquartered, that he realized how much the war had affected him.

“I was sitting at an outdoor cafe, and there was a backfire of a vehicle,” said Cook, who lives with his wife and three children. “I jumped to the ground, and people around me were staring at me.”

Cook suffers from headaches and back and ankle problems, in addition to his brain injury and PTSD. It's worse during the Fourth of July holiday.

“Last year, I pretty much shut myself in,” Cook said. “I had to put headphones on and keep myself as stress-free as possible. I couldn’t be next to windows and see the flashes and the sounds. They take me back.”

This year, Cook is hoping for a little piece of mind with the lawn sign.

“I don’t want people not to shoot off fireworks. I have no problem with people celebrating, and I don’t want to tell them to stop. I just want them to be responsible.”

By responsible, Cook suggested, “keep it to the Fourth, not the week leading up to it and the week after.”

Clyde Jensen, a financial planner, lives across the street from Cook. He doesn’t know Cook that well, but when he was told about the sign, Jensen wholeheartedly agreed with the sentiment.

“Of course we should respect his wishes,” Jensen said. “He sacrificed a lot for us. If fireworks bother him, we should respect that.”

Former Army combat medic John Crane once enjoyed the annual light shows on the Fourth.

“I loved everything about fireworks,” said Crane, 30, of St. Petersburg, Fla., who served a tour in Iraq. “I used go out to the pier, and my Dad, who worked at the Vinoy hotel, sometimes would take me to the towers to watch the fireworks.”

He especially enjoyed the ones that would fire from a tube like a mortar and explode in brilliant colors overhead.

A few days before deploying, Crane and his wife went out to the pier to watch the 2010 Fourth of July display. It was the last time he would enjoy anything like it.

On the way out of Fallujah, where he had gone to help residents with their medical issues, the lumbering tan armored vehicles in which he rode was hit by a rocket-launched grenade.

“It blew the armored plating off the truck,” Crane said. The force of the blast was so strong his brain shifted, creating a 9 mm cyst.

About a month later, a soldier in his unit, Neftaly Platero, turned on his own men, wounding one and killing two, including Crane’s best friend, Pfc. Gebrah Noonan. During Platero’s trial in Baghdad, mortar rounds hit the airport where it was being held.

Crane said the cumulative affect of his experiences caused his PTSD. Now, instead of enjoying fireworks, he gets sullen and snappy, and he and his wife seclude themselves inside.

“We turn the music up real loud so we can’t hear it,” Crane said. “But I can still feel the concussive blast.”

Worst of all are the fireworks he used to love the most.

“The mortar fireworks are the ones I'm most nervous about,” Crane said. “First, there is the ‘pumpf’ noise of the shell coming out of the tube, then there is the shrill noise of the mortar flying through the air, and then when it goes off, the concussive force is like a true-to-life mortar round.”

Like Cook, Crane saw the red, white and blue sign on the Gourleys’ Facebook page and ordered one. He said he has yet to put it up, but when he does, like Cook, he hopes people are respectful.

“I don’t really know my neighbors,” he said. “I’m not sure what their reaction will be, but there is no need to blast them off all night long or for days after the Fourth.”

Carrie Elk, a psychotherapist who treats combat veterans with PTSD and other service-related mental health issues, thinks the signs are a good idea in concept for those with untreated traumatic stress issues.

“I like the sensitivity and awareness that they bring to people who are around the veterans who may not otherwise think about the effect of fireworks,” said Elk, founder and director of the Elk Institute for Psychological Health and Performance in Tampa, Fla.

“It gives people an opportunity to be respectful and considerate to the veteran, but at the same time, it bothers me that a veteran would feel that avoidance is a solution. It is a good means to an end, but not a solution to handling PTSD.”

PTSD, according to Elk, is unprocessed or fragmented trauma memory that can be triggered by a wide variety of experiences.

“Any elements, including smells, sights and sounds that were stored during the traumatic event are stored as sensory memory, which means when you have similar external stimulus, the memory reactivates the original sensory experience.”

As a result, Elk said, people such as Cook and Carroll who still have unprocessed trauma “see, hear, feel and smell the explosions, which trigger in them a fight-or-flight response.”

If sales at the red-and-white striped tent at a gas station about a mile from Cook’s house are any indication, the Army veteran is in for a long siege.

There are about $3,000 worth of fireworks at the tent, run by Galaxy Fire Works, according to salesman Ronald Hudson. The most expensive item is a box of 36 shells fired from a tube, just like a mortar. Those sell for $119, Hudson said.

“We have about $50,000 worth of fireworks,” Hudson said, adding that sales began June 14 and will run through July 6 or 8.

Even glimpsing the tent sets Cook on edge.

“When I see it,” he says, “I know what’s coming.”

http://www.stripes.com/news/yard-signs-help-warn-fourth-of-july-revelers-of-combat-vets-ptsd-1.354234
Posted in these groups: Screen_shot_2015-03-15_at_2.13.20_pm PTSD4th-of-july_logo 4th of July
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Responses: 18
COL Charles Williams
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Edited >1 y ago
FN (Join to see) SPC Jan Allbright, M.Sc., R.S. (I guess this was merged?) Thanks for the post! And for your service!

Vietnam Vets, Korean Vets, WWI vets never asked for such nonsense, as far as I can remember, or Greneda, Panama, Somalia, Desert Storm etc... I personally think far too many people are jumping on this bandwagon...

I am veteran, have PTSD, and TBI, and I call BS on this. Many of the folks who proffer this message, have no reason to. I hear many war stories, and most times I have found those who talk the most have done the least. I was blown up more than once, and around many IEDS, Rocket and Mortar Attacks; including many combat causalities. Yes, when I came home the last time (each time), I was jumpy... but it passes.

If this bothers you, than stay in your house, or don't go see fireworks.

https://www.rallypoint.com/answers/ptsd-sign-for-forth-of-july-are-we-going-to-far?page=2&urlhash=788677#788677
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MAJ Signal Officer
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I know I'll get blasted for this, BUT... while there are a LOT of Soldiers with ACTUAL PTSD, it seems that the ones that complain the most about the "triggers" - being in crowds, loud noises, etc etc etc are the ones that are just as likely to be avid hunters, sport shooters, go to big concert and events and all the things that have a bunch of "triggers." But when it comes time for the 4th of July or other possibly loud holidays, now everyone else has to be quiet so that they don't set off the Soldiers' PTSD?

Also, while I'm on this soapbox, another thing that kills me about PTSD is how it's being diagnosed at a truly alarming rate. Honestly, out of ALL of the Soldiers that deployed anywhere, I'd venture that less than 25% saw any combat-type activity on a daily or even weekly basis. Can you get PTSD from one rocket that hit one of five DFACs on your FOB? It's probably theoretically possible, but not likely. I hate that so many Soldiers go get diagnosed with PTSD which then takes away resources from Veterans and Soldiers who have serious PTSD. And now, with all the focus on it, more Soldiers sign up for the diagnosis and God forbid a doctor say that they don't have it because then there's a big investigation and suddenly everyone is trying to cover up the "epidemic" of PTSD.

(I'm not saying YOU don't have it, or your buddy, or your other buddy, or that guy you knew who was in the middle of an Al-Queda artillery barrage that lasted for 3 hours in Fallujah - I'm just saying that the majority of people claiming to have significant PTSD probably don't and are sapping resources from those who do - and are diluting the severity of PTSD.)
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COL Charles Williams
COL Charles Williams
>1 y
The last dude with a sign, that circulated around was on a USN oiler during Desert Storm... I am sure that was horrifying. MAJ (Join to see). I agree... I am think is the new cool shiny thing... "look at me, I am combat vet, with PTSD..." I believe all this hype trivializes the condition. After 33 years, I am convinced those who see the most talk the least, and those who see the least talk the most.
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Sgt Tammy Wallace
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The question is, "Do you think people will actually care?" I think some people will and some people won't. I also believe some people will be annoyed by the sign and therefore will be inclined to shoot off fireworks or even more than they had planned to because, "I'll be damned if someone tells me I can't do something that I have a right to do." This whole VETS with PTSD and being afraid of fireworks and stuff, kinda makes me feel a lil conflicted. As with all illnesses, different people are affected differently...I have MST, and as far as I am concerned, that's the worst type of PTSD, but I'm not completely afraid of all men...just all men with high and tights...no I'm just kidding...sigh, I don't know...I guess since I'm not a big fireworks fanatic to begin with, then this really doesn't affect how I feel about it all...like one other RallyPoint'er mentioned, I guess it all just boils down to respect. If fireworks bothers a vet so much so that he is willing to expose himself to the point of posting a sign about his trauma, then by all means, leave that man alone...and shoot off fireworks outside of his vicinity or at least alert him as to the hours you will be doing it so he can go somewhere else, blast his music or put on headphones...
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Paula Minger
Paula Minger
5 mo
Why do those of us who suffered rape as civilians recover but those in Military service claim MST caused PTSD and need a V.A. Disablity check for life?
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