Enjoying Independence Day can be a struggle for veterans with PTSD

Local News

It is a time of celebration and fun. But for some people, the fun is dampened by anxiety.

“We hear that ‘boom,’ we instantly go into, ‘All right, where’s the contact coming from? What do we have to do?’ said US Army veteran Matt Kempainen. “And then we realize it’s a firework.”

The surprise of the bang is the problem.

“Have you ever been mortared before? Have you ever had an RPG shot at you? That surprise of the boom just gets your heart racing, gets it accelerated and you just instantly react to it,” he said.

It puts veterans like him on an uncontrollable heightened sense of awareness.

“Imagine drinking like ten energy drinks in about ten seconds and that’s how it feels,” said Kempainen.

This veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan has his own way of handling it.

“I go out on a boat for the Fourth of July so I’m secluded to my area and I get to watch it happen,” he said.

He feels the best way to combat it is for neighbors to get into the habit of giving notice–especially if they plan to set off fireworks during odd hours.
This alone can ensure that everyone has a pleasant Independence Day.

“If you can prevent the surprise, you’re helping us prevent the anxiety,” said Kempainen.

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