Volunteers: Don't use fireworks around combat veterans

Suffolk County is home to the largest population of veterans in New York State. Thousands of war heroes nationwide are coping with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Westhampton War Memorial Ambulance is handing out lawn signs, free of charge, that read: "A combat veteran lives here. Please be courteous with fireworks."

Chief Robert Bancroft said that exploding fireworks can potentially trigger flashbacks.

Volunteers say the goal is to encourage people to be more mindful of who might be living in their neighborhood and bring more awareness to the issue of veteran PTSD as a whole.

"These are people that have protected us through their military service and I think this is the community's opportunity to take care of their veterans," Bancroft said.

Dr. Valentina Stoycheva, a clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma and PTSD, said that people suffering from mental health illness, especially combat veterans, don't always show clear signs or symptoms. 

"They tend to isolate more, they tend to be more withdrawn, because it takes a tremendous amount of mental resources to just keep the anxiety, keep the pressure, under control," Stoycheva said.

The number of combat veterans with PTSD varies depending on when and where they served, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. An estimated 30% of Vietnam veterans have experienced some degree of PTSD in their lifetimes. 

Volunteers say they have gotten positive support from the community and are encouraging neighbors to go see professionally staged fireworks shows instead of lighting their own, as a safer alternative.

(Editor's Note: Fireworks are illegal in New York State.)