Veterans ask public to be aware of PTSD around holiday

LINCOLN, Neb. - In exactly one week, people will gather with their friends and family to celebrate Independence Day. Many veterans will be among them. They say the holiday is a great reminder of why they serve, but can also trigger memories of traumatic events, like combat.

Stuart Mason is an Army veteran. He said his deployment to Iraq changed the way he views the holiday.

"We had to get used to the rocket and mortar attacks that happened almost every single night," Mason said. "So now, any loud noise can startle you. I know we are in the United States and we are supposed to be safe, but it can set you on edge."

Mason is one of many. According to the military, 1 in 5 veterans will struggle with PTSD symptoms. Mason said he doesn't want his struggle to impact other people.

"Enjoy the reason we are celebrating. Have fun, set off fireworks, just be mindful of those who may have PTSD," Mason said.

Jenna Jelinek is also a veteran. She said communication is key right before a holiday like Independence Day.

"PTSD is all about controlling your environment, so giving someone with it a heads up can go a long way," Jelinek said. "Whether it's saying, 'Hey, we are going to shoot off fireworks until this time,' or 'We are going to have x amount of people in our yard on the 4th."

Mason said he wishes people would wait to set off their fireworks.

"I can usually prepare when it's 4th of July and I know people will be setting them off," Mason said. "It's when they set them off in the middle of the afternoon and it's just a loud noise out of nowhere that's really startling. We're still a week away from the holiday, so I wish people would just wait until it's a little closer."

If you are a veteran who suffers from PTSD, both Mason and Jelinek said you should seek help.

"You aren't weak for admitting you're struggling," said therapist Jessie Thompson. "You should seek out services. That's going to be the best thing for you."