Canceled firework shows to make a more peaceful holiday for veterans experiencing PTSD

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Several Grand Strand firework shows are paused until next Fourth of July due to COVID-19 concerns. While residents start the countdown to next year’s festivities, another group may be enjoying one of the more peaceful Fourth of Julys they’ve had in a while.

The city of Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, and Georgetown canceled their annual firework shows saluting the birth of American Independence beyond two centuries. The holiday holds a deep meaning for patriotic Americans and a deeper meaning for the men and women leaving their homes, families, and friends to fight and serve as young as 18 years old.

“They sacrifice even more and some have given the ultimate sacrifice and some are still sacrificing after combat and after they’ve come home with the effects of war through PTSD and whatnot,” Christopher Hart, U.S. Army Captain from Myrtle Beach said.

Christopher Hart from Myrtle Beach was one of the young men enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1997 and served for eight years.

“It was a pretty honorable day that I had the privilege of having my bronze star pinned on me by a two-star general,” Hart said.

He returned from Iraq in 2004 and got out of the Army in 2005. A couple of years later, Hart started feeling the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Years of therapy at the Myrtle Beach Veteran’s Association lead him to closer to overcoming elevated levels of anxiety that resulted from serving his country.

PTSD can develop from a traumatizing or life-threatening experience. Sometimes symptoms can develop within hours or days. Other times the condition arises months or years after returning from deployment.

“I didn’t know what it was at the time until it started to escalate,” Hart said.

Triggering noises like fireworks and loud bands can serve as common reminders for military combat veterans of past experiences.

“Fireworks all it is is a sound and image, right? But in combat those sounds tend to be imprinted based on the experiences people have had,” Hart said.

For veterans like Hart, the unexpected booming of fireworks can trigger old memories bringing waves anxiety, depression, and anger.

“When you experience combat you experience things most people don’t understand and it wasn’t so much the effect of what you experience as the brain still holds onto that and you just find yourself in an environment that you can’t necessarily relate to,” Hart said.

Hart’s perception of freedom is acknowledging the sacrifices people have given this country over the years, freedom that comes from mental physical and emotional sacrifice.

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