4th of July: Time for Celebration or Isolation?

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My name is Tara, I live in the Corcoran Neighborhood and I am a Combat Veteran. I returned from a year-long deployment to Afghanistan in September, 2012.  During my deployment I completed roughly 280 missions (mostly foot patrols) in the most dangerous, Taliban-ridden district in Zabul Province, Afghanistan. Our tiny Combat Outpost (COP) was frequently the target of local Taliban attacks along with the District Center and Afghan Police station co-located next just outside the gate.   For my tour, I earned a Bronze Star and Combat Action Badge for engaging in direct enemy combat. Before I even left the country, I knew I would never be the same.

I have PTSD and have learned ways to manage my symptoms so that I can continue living a happy, productive life.  The transition home was not easy and I still think about the four guys that didn’t get to come home to their families and paid the ultimate price. The biggest trigger for my PTSD is loud, abrupt, unexpected noises. It sends me into hypervigilance and my heart immediately begins to race. I can feel the blood pulling from my limbs and, the noise gets muffled, and my vision narrows. It feels like hell.

Why am I telling you this? Because I want everyone to be aware of things that trigger my (and many other veterans’) PTSD.  Fireworks are the WORST trigger for me. Starting last year, my spouse and I began leaving the area to enjoy more seclusion around the 4th of July in order to avoid the constant triggers leading up to and after the 4th. I am asking all of you to have a conversation with your neighbors and friends with hope that you might think twice about setting off fireworks from your yard.  By all means, go and enjoy the holiday and spectacular fireworks show put on by the city; just please don’t shoot stuff off during your back yard gatherings and instead, talk about what it might do to a vet like me.

Since returning, I continue serving in the MN Army National Guard as the Company Commander for B Co, 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion. I would be happy to talk to anyone about my service and living with PTSD. 

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