Bay Area veterans with PTSD talk coping with fireworks on 4th of July

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ByEric Thomas KGO logo
Friday, July 5, 2019
Bay Area vets with PTSD talk coping on 4th of July
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If you're headed to one of the Bay Area's big fireworks celebrations you probably won't be joined by a lot of combat veterans.

MARTINEZ, Calif. (KGO) -- If you're headed to one of the Bay Area's big fireworks celebrations, you probably won't be joined by a lot of combat veterans. Especially those suffering with post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

Army veteran George Martinez did three tours in Iraq. Memories of his tour in Balad just won't go away.

TAKE ACTION: Help for veterans of all eras, and their families

"We had a lot of insurgent situations there, so we were getting mortared three to four times" he said.

Three to four times per day, like clockwork.

When he got back to the states, the disturbing thoughts and flashbacks along with the hyper vigilance and fear that loud noises could be the prelude to an attack came with him. That's PTSD.

"It's like you're stuck in that memory, you can't get out of that memory," Martinez said.

RELATED: Signs warn of fireworks around veterans with PTSD

Lots of things can trigger people with PTSD including crowds, helicopters and even rain. But especially the noise made by fireworks

"It's always going to get to you," said Marine Veteran Ellison Lockett of Martinez. "I don't duck like I used to but I still react."

It has been 50 years since Lockett saw some of the toughest fighting of the Vietnam War as a Marine. Twenty years of therapy has helped a lot. But he explains, "What happens to dogs when they hear loud noises? They go under beds, they howl. And it's the same thing, we're affected the same way."

RELATED: Bay Area group bringing awareness to veteran suicide on Memorial Day

Martinez says most vets with PTSD will find a way to cope.

"I will put on noise cancelling headphones, blast television shows, movies," he said. "Something to kind of drown out the noise."

Noise cancelling headphones are one recommendation. Others include surrounding yourself with soothing items like favorite pictures or a beloved pet and to practice deep breathing.

And if you must, drive to a quiet spot away from the noise. The most important thing for vets with PTSD to get professional help.