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Veterans call for mindfulness when setting off fireworks during July 4th weekend

Veterans coping with PTSD amid July 4th fireworks
Veterans coping with PTSD amid July 4th fireworks 02:37

PITTSFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) — A big part of celebrating the Fourth of July is honoring those who've served. However, this time of year can also be a nightmare for veterans if you're not mindful about where you're lighting your fireworks.

The same dazzling displays that light up the sky during the Fourth of July are the same ones that send many veterans cowering in fear that they're back on the frontlines.

Bob Bull knows that better than anyone else, not only because he personally deals with PTSD from his time in the Air Force, but also from his time supporting veterans as they adjust to civilian life.

"It's a duck and cover kind of thing. It's hard to eat, it's hard to sleep, and it's hard to breathe sometimes because when you hear that, you're drawn back to where you were when you first heard it and when you heard it every day," Bull said.

Bull founded the nonprofit Bridge with his business partner and social worker Erika Behm to serve as an on-call resource to help veterans with everything from transportation to connecting them with veteran services. As folks celebrate those who fought for our freedom during the holiday weekend, Bull says fireworks can cause much more harm than good.

"It makes it unsafe, and all those memories come back, and all the heat, the temperature, and all those other things — the mud, the sand they were in, the blood that they saw, the bodies — all those things come back. Just that quick," he said.

Veterans experience higher rates of PTSD than civilians according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Between 10-20% of those who served in Afghanistan or Iraq return with PTSD. Roughly one in 10 of those who served in Desert Storm also returned with PTSD. That number is even greater for Vietnam veterans at roughly 30%. Bull is one of them.

"The veterans themselves — between 6,000 and 7,000 suicides per year and much of that — is due to PTSD," he said.

If you're planning on launching fireworks, avoid areas that you know house veterans even if that's your own neighborhood. Try to use fireworks away from residential areas in general, especially if you're unsure whether you live near someone who's served. The safest bet is to leave the fireworks to the professionals by enjoying your community's fireworks display.

An important resource for those who find themselves in a mental health crisis this weekend or any time of the year is the national suicide and crisis lifeline. You can dial 988 and will be connected with someone who can help.  

While you're celebrating our freedom this weekend, make sure you're mindful of the ones who've fought for it if you're lighting off fireworks.

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