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Fireworks Could Affect Veterans And Those With PTSD

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MISSOULA -

As July 4th nears, many people are looking forward to the fireworks shows, but Missoula city officials say those firework shows can bring back harmful memories to veterans and those living with PTSD.

As a Vietnam vet, Dan Gallagher knows the hardships of transitioning from the battlefield to a regular life. He said even the happiest of celebrations could bring back painful memories, especially when the loud booms and bangs of fireworks are involved.

"The smaller fire works sound like rifle fire, and it was pretty frightening," Gallagher said. "It took me several years to get rid of that fright."

As Gallagher explained, the loud fireworks and flashing explosions can trigger memories of life-threatening situations that caused severe trauma, and it can be hard to keep instinctual reactions in check.

"That's something historic," he said. "It's not just me, or this generation, or that generation."

Gallagher said he remembers his older brother having the same issue when he came back from the Korean War.

"I lit a firework near where my brother was working on a car, and he came out pale and shaking," Gallagher said.

He said not all vets suffer from this problem, but there are generations and generations of vets who do.

Samuel Redfern, a veteran of the war in Iraq said,"Some veterans do come back having experienced a lot of action with mortars and firefights. Fireworks can be very disturbing, especially with a veteran facing PTSD."

Redfern fought with the U.S. Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He said he's seen many veterans live in fear on the July 4th.

"For most Americans, July 4th is a big day," Redfern said. "It's a celebration of our independence and fireworks are a part of that."

Redfern and Gallagher both said they don't want to take the fun or celebration out of Independence Day.

"I think some restrictions are necessary, but I don't want to say bah hum bug to other peoples' festivities on July 4th."

They said they eventually hope there's a way for people to celebrate with fireworks in designated areas where veterans can know to avoid.

Missoula City Council cited this issue as one of the reasons they are putting harsher restrictions on fireworks this year. Fines are raised for the use and sale of fireworks in city limits, and firefighters can hand out citations as well.

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