PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — The sound of fireworks bursting will echo through the skies this weekend as the Gulf Coast welcomes in 2022.
But for veterans, the sound could take them back to war.
“The sounds that fireworks make — the zooms, the pops, the rest — they’re designed to sound like combat,” said Dr. Rush McQueen, director at the Pensacola Vet Center.
“They’re designed to sound like mortars going off and bombs going off. So that can trigger strong reactions from veterans who have been in that environment.”
The staff at the Pensacola Vet Center, which provides veterans resources and counseling, says about 42,000 veterans live in Escambia County — each with a different story. They say fireworks can cause anxiety and stress for the 25% of combat veterans who come home with PTSD.
“It can cause a strong physical reaction in terms of their sympathetic nervous system. Their anxiety. As well as change the way they think,” McQueen said.
While fireworks can be unavoidable around New Year’s, experts suggest veterans with PTSD avoid them if possible.
“Take measures to minimize the impact on you, whether it be listening to music or wear big headphones or noise cancelers,” McQueen said. “Go to places where people fire off fireworks less. Spend some time with fellow friends, family or fellow veterans.”
Doctors say even more importantly, residents should be aware of who is around them before shooting off fireworks.
“Be sensitive if you have veterans around, whether it be your friends, family or neighbors,” McQueen said. “Talk with them about it and let them know when you plan on shooting off fireworks so they can take measures, so they can leave or do what they need to do. Be sensitive to that.”
You can contact the Pensacola Vet Center at 850-456-5886 or at vetcenter.va.gov.