4th of July can trigger veterans

NAPLES, Fla. — The July 4 holiday can be a trigger day for some veterans. The David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health and its partner, Home Base Florida, offer services to help veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

“It’s more than hot dogs and fireworks,” said Bruce Larson, an Air National Guard veteran living in Bonita Springs. “Freedom isn’t free. It costs you a lot of money. It’s cost you a lot of assets. And that unfortunately sometimes is people.”

That’s what Larson, 67, wants you to remember when you celebrate the 4th of July. He said the vacation made him reflect on his decade of service.

“It gives you such a sense of pride when you see the flag flying,” he said.

But he said Independence Day also brings back dark memories. In 1989, Larson watched his friend and fellow Air National Guard member George Dugas die in a plane crash during his final exercise.

“We spent four and a half to five o’clock that afternoon trying to find some remains,” Larson said.

The nonprofit Home Base Florida said at least one in three veterans like Larson has PTSD.

“It’s a giveaway from hell,” Larson said.

He credits Home Base for helping him with his PTSD. Its senior manager, Armando Hernandez, said their mission is to provide veterans with the care they need when they return home.

“The suicide rate in the veteran population is at least 20 veterans a day and one active service member. But Florida is actually one of the top states when it comes to veteran suicides,” he said.

Hernandez said it’s important to be aware that July 4 can be a trigger for some veterans.

“I think on some holidays you will naturally see veterans and their family members asking for more care. I think Memorial Day is one of them. I think the 4th of July can be one to reflect on service and freedom,” he said.

Home Base partners with the David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health. Its chief operating officer, Nancy Dauphinais, said one of the most effective tools used by DLC is cognitive processing therapy.

“It involves really changing the way you think about the event,” she said. “It focuses on different elements of relationships. Everything from issues of intimacy and trust, to how to maintain a sense of safety in the environment, to issues of power and control and self-esteem and how go forward.”

Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Intrusive thoughts about trauma
  • Avoid anything that might trigger memories of this trauma
  • Impulsive behavior, irritability or anger
  • Difficulty remembering
  • The Depression

“If you’ve never experienced this trauma, when you go to bed tonight, thank goodness,” Larson said.

That’s why Larson said when celebrating holidays like the 4th of July or Memorial Day, have a good time, but remember what you’re capable of doing.

“You’re out there doing that, because we’re free to do that,” he said. “Remember someone made this possible for you and me.”

If you are a veteran in need of assistance, you can call the David Lawrence Centers 24-hour line at (239) 455-8500. You can also call Home Base Florida at 239-338-8389. Remember: Home Base also serves family members of veterans.

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