Combat Vet Jon Dykes Asks Neighbors to Consider PTSD Sufferers During Fireworks Season

There are all sorts of ways to celebrate July 4th — even ways to celebrate inside if you have to — but one thing everyone can agree on is that fireworks are an important part of America's birthday. But as combat veteran Jon Dykes hopes to remind people, those fireworks can also be huge problems for soldiers struggling with PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. A photo of Dykes standing with a lawn sign asking his neighbors to be courteous with fireworks has gone viral this week, calling attention to the struggles that combat veterans can face on Independence Day.

Jon Dykes served in the US Army for ten years, from 2000 to 2010. He served in Iraq during the early days of the war, and was diagnosed with PTSD in 2003. After spending last July 4th "feeling like he was under attack and back in combat," this year he created a sign letting his neighbors know that he's a combat veteran, and asking that they please keep that in mind when setting off fireworks.

The photo of Dykes with the sign was posted on the Military with PTSD Facebook page and has been shared over 250,000 times, with most commenters supporting Dykes and the sign, and plenty of people asking where they can get one. Military with PTSD, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about PTSD among service members, says that they hope to have the signs manufactured on a large scale to give out to veterans in time for Independence Day in 2015.

It's a little tragic to think that a day meant to celebrate America could be inherently painful to the men and women who fought so hard for our country, but for soldiers living with PTSD, that can very much be the case. People with PTSD often experience flashbacks when painful memories are triggered, causing them to relive traumatic incidents. So if a person has combat related PTSD, hearing something that sounds an awful lot like gunshots going off all around your neighborhood all night can be something of a nightmare. And when you consider the fact that around 20 percent of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD, that makes this a big, big problem.

Jesse E. Mundt, a clinical psychologist with the VA in Chicago told ABC News, "Most vets I know tend to be bothered less by the large firework displays, the colorful starbursts that are accompanied by patriotic music and 'oohs' and 'ahhs' by a crowd. The bigger problem is all the smaller fireworks that start getting used weeks ahead of July 4th and continue getting used for weeks after the holiday sometimes."

So if you know there's a combat vet in your neighborhood, think twice before you keep setting off fireworks all night, and maybe give them a head's up when you'll be starting your celebrations. It's all part of being a good neighbor and making sure everyone can enjoy the holiday.

Image: Military with PTSD/Facebook