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For some veterans, July 4th fireworks trigger PTSD

The explosion of fireworks on the Fourth of July can have unintended consequences for some veterans who fought for their country. While many enjoy the festivities, those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may find the noise can trigger a frightening reaction.

In Lansing, Michigan, CBS affiliate WLNS-TV's Christa Lamendola spoke with some veterans who are hoping to raise awareness ahead of the holiday weekend.

"You hear that boom, it can trigger you right back to something -- a place you don't want to go," Iraq war vet Eric Calley said.

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Iraq war veteran Eric Calley says Fourth of July fireworks can trigger PTSD.
WLNS-TV

Calley has a therapy dog to help him cope with PTSD year-round, but the Fourth of July brings special challenges. Encountering a trigger brings him mentally right back into a war zone: "It's almost like tunnel vision, nothing on the outside of you even matters," he said.

About 8 million American adults are believed to suffer from PTSD in any given year. While the condition can develop in anyone who experienced a traumatic or life-threatening event, combat veterans are especially at risk. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that more than 30 percent of Vietnam veterans have experienced PTSD at some point. So have about 12 percent of those who served in the first Gulf War, and between 11 and 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

A report from the Institute of Medicine in 2014 found only about half of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who needed treatment for PTSD were getting it.

Brian Coats, of the Michigan Veterans of Foreign Wars, told WLNS-TV he knows many vets still suffer. "You start hearing fireworks or gunshots or something and people start having flashbacks," he said.

But Calley says there is something neighbors can do to help. He encourages people to let veterans in their area know in advance of plans that might trigger a reaction. "Say, 'hey I'm going to be lighting off some fireworks I just wanted to let you know.' You know, common courtesy can go a long way when you're talking about July Fourth and our veterans."