Banned fireworks give Midlands soldier a PTSD flashback - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Banned fireworks give Midlands soldier a PTSD flashback

By Jordan Sandler - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - When you're living with post-traumatic stress disorder, things like fireworks can bring back painful memories for veterans home from war.
    
This past July 4, one soldier thought he was safe from the explosions since his neighborhood banned fireworks. But, he was wrong.

"I didn't really understand what was going on around me because in my mind I wasn't here. In my mind I was Iraq," says Army Specialist Chase Brown.

The flashbacks for brown got intense on the weekend of July 4. He has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder since he returned from fighting in Baghdad two years ago.

From the safe comforts of his front yard, he says fireworks popping down the street sent him into 45 minutes of darkness.

"My wife and I and a couple of our neighbors were standing outside, just talking," he said. "Some of those artillery rounds started being fired from down the road. The flash from the RPGs, all that was coming back. Death, destruction, the smells, sights, everything."

"I remember coming in and grabbing my keys and that was it," Brown told WIS News 10. "I don't remember anything else until my wife was actually able to get me back inside."

Brown's wife says he drove down the street and yelled at the neighbors. The sheriff's department was called in.

"I have no idea exactly what I said to them," said Brown. "I'm like a zombie. I just shut down."

Brown's experience is not that rare. Psychiatrist Rachel Nelson says at least one-fourth of the soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

"It's an anxiety disorder and it comes about after a catastrophic experience," says Dr. Rachel Nelson.

She says a loud noise like fireworks can bring it on.

"It's like if you're on a roller coaster and when that roller coaster first goes down. And you feel your stomach go into you chest," Brown says.

Brown sees mental health professionals a few times a week and he's on anxiety medications. Still, he fears noises from fire works will always make him lose control.

Keeping himself away from the sounds of sudden explosions may be impossible, but he hopes an awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans will help others at least understand.

Dr. Nelson says many veterans with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder wait too long before they seek help.

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