ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — If you plan to shoot off fireworks tonight for the Fourth of July, you may want to consider any current or former military members who live on your street.  

One of the most popular ways to celebrate Independence Day is having a firework show, but the enjoyment we take from these explosives can be very damaging to the mental health of veterans with PTSD. Local vets have tips you can follow to be courteous.   

U.S Army vet Brook Merritt, was in combat during Desert Storm. Over the weekend he experienced flashbacks to those days when multiple fireworks unexpectedly went off by the Veterans Outreach center where he stays.  

“I got very anxious, and my ears perked up,” Merritt said. “You look around to make sure you’re safe. You take some deep breaths to breathe easy, and it helps.” 

Before you fire anything off veterans like Brook and Nick Coia advise you always to be on the lookout for flags or signs on your neighbor’s home. Or the type of clothes they were wearing, indicating they served in the military. 

“Common human decency right there just to reach out and ask to let them know a little heads up,” Coia explained. “Be mindful and they can prepare themselves for the fireworks going off and I think that’s the biggest thing. Them being surprised of fireworks going off and them knowing about it are two total different things.”  

“Look for stickers, t-shirts, or people wearing regalia,” Merritt said. “Try to be mindful of that because they may be a veteran so let’s tone it down a bit.” 

Leading up to the Fourth of July weekend, those staying at the Veterans Outreach Center made plans on what they’ll do if a lot of fireworks go off near their facility. Like using the buddy system to support those having flashbacks to their days in combat.  

“This is definitely a sanctuary 100%,” Coia stated. “It’s a safe environment, controlled environment and realistically there’s ways to distract ourselves when fireworks are going off. Coming in here and going upstairs watching TV together or listening to music. Whatever the case may be.” 

Those staying at the Veterans Outreach Center add PTSD can always be hard to open up about and ask for help. But for the good of your health, they encourage anyone battling these symptoms to reach out to the VOC (Veterans Outreach Center) or anyone you trust to begin healing.