Skip to Content

Independence Day Celebrations can trigger PTSD in Veterans


July 3, 2021

East Orange , NJ — Independence Day fireworks are an American tradition, but mental health professionals say that holiday revelers should be mindful of their neighbors who served in the Armed Forces, as it could be a source of stress and a reminder of wartime.

“They were exploding to our left, they were exploding to our right. You didn’t know when you saw the next rocket ignite, whether it was going to come directly your way,” says Vietnam War veteran Rick Young.
Young reflects on his time serving in Vietnam.
“That night, we got hit with a rocket attack,” he says.
It has been 50 years since Young served, but he says that the memories of his first 10 years home, dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, especially around Fourth of July celebrations, are still vivid.
“While other people are happily watching these things go on…I watch the fireworks take off and I can slip back into that particular instance,” he says.
According to the National Center for PTSD, the number of veterans with the disorder varies by service era. Fifteen out of every 100 veterans who served in Vietnam suffer from PTSD. About 30% of Young’s peers in the service will experience PTSD in their lifetime.
Bradley Jacobs, a suicide prevention coordinator for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, says that Independence Day celebrations can trigger some PTSD reactions.
“That could be from large crowds, to bright lights, certain smells and the sounds of explosives,” Jacobs says.
Young says that he can relate to this.
"The first time that the fireworks were up close and personal, there was a strong desire to find a foxhole as rapidly as possible,” he says.
Jacobs says it's important for a veteran who might be suffering from PTSD to learn their warning signs and also know who they can talk with if they're experiencing a crisis.
“Who are the people you reach out to for help? Have those numbers available. Having any kind of human connection when you're experiencing an emotional reaction is just vitally important,” says Jacobs.
Veterans as well as their friends, family and neighbors are encouraged to call the veterans crisis line if there's a suspicion of PTSD. And as the holiday approaches, mental health providers want to remind Americans to be mindful of their friends, family or neighbors who served.
PTSD can look different for every person, but some signs to look out for can include but not limited to, clenching teeth or fists, pacing, shortness of breath and strong emotional reactions.

Veteran's crisis line: 800-273-8255, press option 1
Text: 838255

Experts warn that some Independence Day celebrations can trigger PTSD in veterans (

Media contacts

Christine Betros Farrell, Executive Assistant to the Medical Center Director

908-647-0180 ext. 21-4050