Veterans with PTSD ask neighbors to warn them before discharging fireworks

Posted at 4:31 PM, Jul 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-02 18:31:37-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Fourth of July is supposed to be the most patriotic day of the year, but sometimes the days surrounding it can be the most difficult for veterans.

The brightly colored booms and bangs can impact our veterans who are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Wendy Griffin, a United States Air Force veteran, served 26 years ago. When she was 29 she suffered a back injury on a base and was hospitalized for three months. That would be her last year in the military. To this day, she can walk, but only about 200 yards at a time.

“I got to serve in the pleasure spots of the world: Korea, the Philippines, Honduras,” Griffin said.

She says she struggles through Fourth of July fireworks almost every year.

“It's really a tough time,” Griffin said. “I know for the first few years after I got back from Korea, I hid. I didn't want to be anywhere near it. I'd go up in the mountains and get away from it because being around it just terrified me."

Griffin said she knows it's "stupid" (in her words) to fear fireworks, but that knowledge doesn't change her reaction. She said the unexpected fireworks are the most troublesome.

"The hardest is the random [fireworks]," Griffin said. "I can prepare for a big celebration, I don't like it, I can be away from it. But when people set off the fireworks at their homes, sometimes those are the ones because they are all of a sudden. Here it goes and you're not expecting it, and it's scary. I hid under my bed for a while.”

Griffin said she works hard to manage it, but she still fights to get through the Fourth of July booms.

“When I was in Korea they had an incoming round, and it took out a million-gallon tank," Griffin said. "And the sound that it makes is just like the sounds of fireworks and that explosion, and you are waiting for that to happen, and it takes you back to that moment.”

She said in order to help her, families and neighbors only need to alert her about when they will be setting fireworks off in her neighborhood. That way she can prepare for the fireworks that are not publicly announced.

“If they would knock on my door and say, 'We are going to set off bottle rockets,' OK, fine go for it, I know, and I am ready," Griffin said. "But not knowing and all of a sudden having it go off and seeing the explosion outside or the bright lights outside. It's, 'Huh?! What's going on?' And you go into that mode of protect.”

A non-profit group called Military With PTSD mails signs out to veterans with PTSD to put on their lawns, alerting neighbors to be respectful of them and notify them if they plan on setting off any fireworks.

To purchase one or donate to the non-profit’s cause, click here.