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Living with PTSD

Should we stop fireworks on The Fourth to help people with PTSD?

LISTEN TO “Living with PTSD” (24MB MP3)When you hear “Fourth of July” what’s the first image that comes to mind? For many it is fireworks. Brightly colored pyrotechnics have exploded into the sky to celebrate America’s independence from Britain since 1777 when Americans first celebrated with “bonfires, bells and fireworks.”

For many these explosions signify celebration, independence, and patriotism. But for people who have lived through combat — and who now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — those bangs can trigger terrible fear and horrible memories.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder people sometimes experience after traumatic events such as combat experience, sexual assaults, or car accidents. Recent studies show that about 30 percent of people who have been in a war zone experience PTSD. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this percentage might be considerably higher. Nearly 40,000 U.S. troops who served in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2003 and 2007 have already been diagnosed by the military with PTSD.

Tomorrow we’ll speak with people for whom PTSD is a daily reality. We’ll find out what the world looks, and sounds, like to them; and discover how popping balloons and back-firing cars affect them. And we want to know what you think — should we consider canceling fireworks on the Fourth to help people who served in war, but now live with the nightmares?

Do you have PTSD — or do you know someone who does? What are your triggers? And how do you cope?


  • Kilong Ung: Former president of the Cambodian-American Community of Oregon, who came to the state after escaping from the genocide under the Khmer Rouge
  • Jim Palmer: Veterans Service Officer for the Department of Aging and Veterans Affairs in Washington County and a Vietnam Veteran who has suffered from PTSD.
  • Jim Sardo: A two-tour miliatary psychologist who manages the PTSD Clinical Team and Substance Abuse Services at the Portland Veterans Affairs Meidcal Center, and a major in the Air Force Reserves

Photo credit: Esherman / Flickr / Creative Commons

mental health veteran july 4th military ptsd war

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