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Vets with PTSD try to 'get through' Fourth of July holiday

Posted at 4:45 PM, Jul 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-03 17:45:31-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — For vets like Sam Crapson, the Fourth of July holiday is just something he's got to get through.

"It causes a lot of flashbacks, a lot of just anxiety, feeling like you're on edge. A sense of impending doom almost for lack of a better terminology,” says Sam Crapson.

He served in Afghanistan before messing up his back and shoulder a few years in, and in late 2012, he began to notice symptoms of PTSD.

"It was just rough, there was a lot of times I was just curled up in the corner, trying to keep, you know, sane,” says Crapson.

During firework season now, he has a better handle on it. When the sky is lighting up with booms and bangs, he's listening to music, staying with close friends, and doing anything he can to remain calm.

'A lot of meditation, a lot of prayer,” says Crapson.

His symptoms are not uncommon. The US Department of Veterans Affairs says 11 to 20 percent of vets deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq suffer from PTSD. 12 percent of vets from the Gulf War, and around 30 percent of Vietnam vets suffer from it at some point in their lives.

Professor of Psychiatry at UNMC Steven Wengel says it's unclear why some vets come back home with PTSD, while others have no symptoms.

"It seems like it's a combination of the stress itself plus some sort of vulnerability that people have. I'm not blaming the people that have it by any means, but we're all wired a little differently,” says Steven Wengel.

And for the vets that have it, the hot air or smell of gunpowder makes it worse.

"Sight, temperature and sound, all that sort of thing, the more senses you engage, the more likely you are to trigger something,” says Wengel.

In the Omaha-area residents are supposed to stop and put away their fireworks at 11 p.m. When they don't, it can really mess with vets.

"Especially if you're sleeping, you get woken up, by a pop or a bang or whatever, that tends to be even worse then when you are prepared for it, at least it is for me,” says Crapson.

Crapson recommends for those lighting off fireworks to be aware of veterans in their neighborhood and to use common sense in lighting off fireworks near their residence.