Fireworks can trigger flashbacks for veterans

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — This Fourth of July, don’t forget about those who fought for our country.

“I’ve hit the ground before on unexpected ones and tried crawling underneath stuff,” Marine veteran Roger Metz says. “It’s a flashback, it comes back to you and you can’t help it.”

To this day, the sound of fireworks can bring Metz back to when his vehicle was under attack.

“I see the RPG coming,” he says. “I see the smoke trail. I see the hand grenade rolling across the ground and praying ‘please keep rolling.’ So, when I hear the loud explosions, it’s like my life is right there.”

He actually wears Bluetooth headphones that block out the sound to help.

Veterans, especially those dealing with PTSD, often have flashbacks from fireworks. But it’s not usually the ones on the 4th.

“It’s the fireworks on June 30th or July 15th that they are not expecting to hear an explosion,” Veteran Outreach Program Specialist Keith Ross said.

The unexpected explosions can bring a veteran back into a warzone mindset. Sometimes, it’s too much for them.

“We seem to have lost a veteran at least once a year for pretty much the last four years on the Fourth of July because of the triggers,” Military With PTSD Executive Director Shawn Gourley said.

Gourley started Military With PTSD in 2015 with the goal of helping raise awareness.

Handing out these signs, it’s a way to let neighbors know who is around them.

“If that veteran has the heads up, they may not be okay with it, but they can be better with it,” Ross said.

Metz says the signs aren’t to discourage fireworks, but wants people to talk to him first so they can enjoy fireworks together.

“That’s what we fought for,” he said. “The freedoms to be out there, have your picnics, have the fireworks and enjoy yourself.”

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