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Veterans on Fourth of July: It Can Traumatize Us

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SACRAMENTO -- At Stockton's Independence Day parade, Veteran Darlene Harris said this is the happiest part of the holiday. But later tonight, her sense of celebration will fade into feelings of panic.

Veterans like Harris suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, often have flashbacks due to the noise of explosions right out their front doors.

"I'm still, to this day, where I can't handle the fireworks," Harris told FOX40.

Harris served for more than 14 years in both the Army and Navy, played a role in Desert Storm, Desert Shield and Operation Iraqi Freedom. On the forth, she has to go on her own mission to avoid the sound of fireworks, a task easier said than done.

"I have to turn my TV to where it's so loud that you can't even hear anything from outside, because I just go into my PTSD mode," Harris said.

And she's not alone. Dozens at Stockton's Veteran of Foreign Wars Club Monday said fireworks exacerbate their PTSD as well.

"Many of them are scared," said Louis Balberde, a Vietnam era US Army vet. "Many of them don't know, you know, that we are available to help them."

But Harris said she's not opposed to the firework celebrations.

"You know, as a kid I loved them, and I'm sure there's going to be one day where I can watch them again," Harris said.

She just hopes more people will talk with their veteran neighbors to find out if they have PTSD.

"Just know your neighbors, because it does traumatize us," Harris explained, "and we can actually go back to thinking we are in that situation again and be hospitalized for it."

The Veterans Association has set up an emergency number for those suffering from PTSD during this time of year. That number is: 1-877-WAR-VETS (1-877-927-8387).