July 4 can be a bad day for veterans with PTSD - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

July 4 can be a bad day for veterans with PTSD

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DALTON, GA (WRCB) -

Unexpected fireworks outside your window can be startling for anyone. For veterans with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, the sudden, loud blasts can trigger flashbacks, anxiety or worse.

Keith McDermott says he's not free from the memories of his service from overseas in Iraq and fireworks can sparks stress, especially this holiday weekend.

“We didn't come back and ask to have this,” said McDermott. As Independence Day approaches, Keith McDermott feels the anxiety building. “It is really rough on me. I am not ashamed to say I have sat here and cried about it.”

McDermott served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He now struggles with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. “When I see that I become hyper vigilant and my nerves go on frenzy. I start shaking. I have to remove myself from the situation.”

During this 4th of July weekend, McDermott is asking you to remember your neighbors and to be courteous with fireworks. “The loud explosions, it's bad. It reminds me of the RPG, small arm fires. Anyone with fire crackers, anything that's loud.”

McDermott is not alone. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs says about 20 percent of veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom have PTSD. “Anything loud, anything suspicious. I am out looking around, going outside. Checking outside to make sure everything's good.”

He said it helps when his neighbors warn him when they are about to shoot off fireworks. “If I see it, I can prepare for it beforehand. Yes, I will be okay with it as long as I see what they are going to do. The surprise gets to me.”

In 2008, McDermott was honorably discharged from the U.S. military due to his PTSD. It has been a long road to recovery for him; it’s something he said he would never take back. Saying it is the price of freedom.  “I'd do it again if I could. I have that much love for this country. I would do it in a heartbeat.”

The Department of Veteran's Affairs says limit fireworks activity to the actual holiday, as many families enjoy setting off fireworks randomly this weekend. For more information http://www.ptsd.va.gov/

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