Fireworks can trigger Valley veterans with PTSD

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Fourth of July celebrations often light up the sky with fireworks, but for some Valley veterans, the tradition can often bring up difficult memories.

Combat veteran Maximo Belmarez served in the U.S. Army from 1965 to 1968, then served in the National Guard for 20 years.

“Loud explosives make me nervous and I’ll get flashbacks afterwards,” Belmarez said. “So, I stay away from fireworks.”

In the early 2000s, doctors diagnosed Belmarez with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I know it’s fireworks, but even when I’m there, I tried it, and when I was there, a loud explosion will get me to look for cover,” Belmarez said. “I had to take medicine to be normal, to behave like a normal person.”

Dr. Alliey Rodriguez, assistant professor for UTRGV’s Department of Neuroscience, says celebrations can be difficult for war veterans and those with PTSD.

“It can really trigger an episode of anxiety, so these people, they should try to avoid places like where these places where loud noises are coming,” Dr. Rodriguez said.

Dr. Rodriguez says the loud blast from fireworks also impacts some people with dementia, Alzheimer’s and autism.

“We normally can enjoy the celebration because our ears and our brain adjust the threshold of the influence of the noise to the situation,” Dr. Rodriguez said.

Dr. Rodriguez says if you have someone at home who is sensitive to loud noises, keep them inside and try to play music to make them feel calm. As for Belmarez, he watches the fireworks from a distance.

“The fourth of July, to me, is a reminder of the sacrifices done by a lot of people so we can keep our freedom,” Belmarez said. “It’s a beautiful day.”

He plans to celebrate with his wife, close friends, delicious food and his dogs.

If you know a veteran who is in need of help, call 956-266-7521 or visit www.staivargv.org


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