How Those With PTSD Cope With Impromptu Firework Displays

Posted at 11:17 PM, Jul 02, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-02 23:35:01-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (July 2, 2014) – Soon the night sky will be filled with the festive sights and sounds that come with celebrating our nation’s independence.

But for some, like David Rios, that noise can be a trigger of a dark past.

“First time I went up in the air on that helicopter I loved every minute of it,” Rios said.

At 17, Rios joined the military.  He served nine years.  One year was spent as a helicopter gunner in Vietnam.  That’s where he developed post traumatic stress disorder.

Treatment for him began years ago.  Weekly group meetings which he still attends.  During the most recent meeting they discussed subject of fireworks.

For those suffering with PTSD, this is the time of year when they are on alert.

“I’d say over half the guys in the group said, ‘No, I will be hunkered down in my basement or my man-room.’  That’s what I would do too if they get real loud.”

For Rios, it isn’t so much the planned professional celebrations that trigger the PTSD, but the neighborhood celebrations that can catch a person off-guard.

Impromptu celebrations can be heard throughout West Michigan during the weeks leading up to the holiday.

“You really are not prepared for it,” he said.  “You jump and you are looking around and you are ready.”

A Grand Rapids city ordinance only allows fireworks on holidays and the day before and the day after the holiday.  These are times when Rios and others can plan accordingly.

“Everyone has got their fireworks.  Why not? They are celebrating their fourth.  They are celebrating America.  I don’t hold anything against them to do that,” he said.  “But there are some combat vets that just shy away from it because it is just too much for them to handle.”

He cautions others to obey the local rules when it comes to celebrating the holiday and be aware of how it may impact your neighbor.