High Point veteran with PTSD puts sign in yard about fireworks

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HIGH POINT, N.C. -- Fireworks and Independence Day celebrations go hand in hand, but one family is asking people to be mindful of lighting them off near veterans this week.

"Please, have fun. Enjoy the holiday. Just two, three o'clock in the morning, probably isn't the best time to set them off anymore," Kevin Haynes said.

Something as simple as a sparkler can trigger symptoms like flashbacks and panic attacks for the nearly 20 percent of veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs.

"I don't use the term 'struggle' or 'suffer from' at all, because if you struggle with it, if you suffer from it, that means it has control over your life," Haynes said.

Instead, Haynes says he lives with PTSD.

"Because if you live with something, it doesn't control you," he said.

July Fourth celebrations can be especially tough for this veteran. He served for 10 years as a combat engineer in the United States Marine Corps, with multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As with many veterans, fireworks are one of Haynes' triggers.

"If I don't know it's coming and I just hear it, anywhere, anything from flashbacks to my whole body will tense up," he said. "Instant anxiety, it puts me right back into combat mode. It puts me right back in fight or flight."

"It makes me feel helpless, because there's nothing I can do," said Jennifer Haynes, Kevin's wife.

Kevin and Jennifer ordered a sign for the lawn of their High Point home last year. It asks people to be mindful of veterans living with PTSD and aims to educate the neighborhood about how to handle conditions you can't see.

"Not all scars are visible," Kevin said. "So there's a lot that's underneath the skin that you'll never know about."

If you see the sign in your neighborhood, Kevin and Jennifer encourage you to stop and talk to the people who live there and to pass along their message.

"If we can be that voice for at least one other person, then I think we're doing an OK job," Jennifer said.

They hope you remember the meaning behind the flag and the fireworks.

"Fourth of July to us, is a reminder of the sacrifices that have been made," Kevin said. "Not just by me, not just by my wife, but by so many others that went before us. So many others that gave so much more than I did. That's what it means to us."

Because that is something to celebrate.

You can order the signs for free at militarywithPTSD.org. But if you opt to pay for the cost of shipping, the group will send an additional sign for free to another veteran on the waiting list.

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