SAN FRANCISCO -- While thousands gather to enjoy fireworks to celebrate the birth of a nation, thousands of veterans who suffer with post traumatic stress disorder will stay indoors to avoid the fireworks.
KPIX 5 met with two veterans who see their peers at a shelter called Swords to Plowshares in the Presidio neighborhood. Paul McCloskey lives behind two locked doors. He says July 4th isn't all patriotism for many soldiers home from war. For many, it's about the pain of PTSD.
"I guess you'd call them horrific memories. It's a very real thing that can cripple certain people. It brings back horrific memories," said McCloskey. "It can mimic, very realistically, a combat situation. The flashing lights, those are always used. It's just too much like combat. It smells and tastes like combat to some people. [They're] cowering in the corner sometimes."
McCloskey's neighbor in shelter is Peter Hanson, a Vietnam war veteran who served our nation the brutal day when Saigon fell. He agrees fireworks can be fierce for veterans.
"I've known guys who hide under tables, to peek around corners, to dodge out of sight, especially with unexpected booms," said Hanson. "It's a life sentence for them."
Hanson meditates to avoid what he calls "labored breathing." McCloskey cleans to quiet his mind. Both believe veterans need to be given programs that give them quiet places away from fireworks.
"We don't want them canceled. But we know until we can get to a quiet place, we think of one word when we hear fireworks: duck," said Hanson.
Veterans with PTSD who need support during July 4th can find resources at the Swords to Plowshares website.
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