(WTVM) - From poolside grilling to big firework shows, Fourth of July festivities are just days away. However, with the fun comes a traumatic time for many veterans in our area who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Mikey Kreft, a Valdosta, Georgia Army veteran committed suicide last year after fireworks sparked a PTSD attack. This year local and national advocates hope to prevent another tragedy like that.
"The Fourth of July, veterans expect fireworks, everyone expects fireworks," said Shawn Gourley, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Military with PTSD organization.
It's the days before and after that catch those suffering with PTSD off guard organizers explain. The group spent Thursday sending out 3,000 signs that say "combat veteran lives here, please be courteous with fireworks." Their intention isn't to ask people not to use fireworks, but rather to give them a heads up.
"Once they're triggered, their mind is processing. It has associated that sound and brings back those memories of war, so they're going to react that way," said Gourley.
Organizers with Military with PTSD say the problem isn't always on the fourth of July, but rather the days before and after when firework usage can come at sporadic times and surprise veterans.
"A lot of times just inviting them over and saying hey, we're going to be setting off fireworks from this time to this time, would you like to join us, that actually is something that we have talked to the vets who have used this sign and they have found it to be very helpful," said Gourley.
Advocates explain that the warning of fireworks usage, and visually seeing the fireworks creating the jarring noise can help immensely. In the last two years the military and PTSD organization has sent out nearly 8,000 signs to help veterans across the country.
Organizers with military with PTSD say you can make a similar inexpensive sign yourself to put on the front lawn, that way neighbors who drive by, but may not live immediately on your block will know your request.