Up & Coming Weekly

June 27, 2023

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 10 of 24

10 UCW JUNE 28 - JULY 4, 2023 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM Celebrations can trigger combat veterans with PTSD by MATTHEW MOELLER, Veterans Affairs Oscar Solis, Jr. is a retired U.S. Marine who doesn't like celebrating the Fourth of July. "I'm very honored by the intent, but it's the cel- ebration behind it — the fireworks, the large crowds — that's a bit much for me," the Afghanistan and Iraq War veteran explained. Solis is not alone. Every year the nation celebrates its independence with fireworks. What some don't realize is that these colorful celebrations of Ameri- can freedom can seriously impact the veterans who defended it. "As beautiful as they are, the sounds, smells and shock waves of fireworks can be triggering for veter- ans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD," said Annie Tang, staff psychologist at Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Illinois. "ese can bring up emotional and physiological reactions, and bring up trauma memories from the past, which can bring up intense anxiety and fear." Tang explained that the brain is very good at pair- ing things, especially threat. Combat veterans and those who worked in combat zones can pair threat with whatever was in that environment, including things they saw, heard or smelled. ese pairings can continue after returning to civilian life. So, when fireworks or other loud noises occur, a veteran's brain can feel in danger. "at's absolutely me," said Solis. "It's like an ani- malistic brain. It's a lot of negative things you associ- ate with that makes you hesitant to do everything." Although time and treatment have helped with coping, Solis still prefers to stick to his regular schedule during the holiday. "I really struggled for a long time. I took a bad turn initially when I first got out. Over the past few years or so, it's gotten better. Now I can manage," he explained. "But I stay in; my routine is everything. I stick to my routine." According to Tang, avoiding the holiday is a com- mon way of coping with the stress Independence Day can bring but may not benefit someone long- term. "In our society and military culture, veterans are taught to avoid," Tang explained. "How many times has a veteran heard 'suck it up?' In an immediate threat, [avoidance] can help, but in civilian life, it can really affect many veterans." Tang has treated veterans at Hines VA since 2013 and recommends five things to help veterans cope with triggers. 1. Avoid avoidance. Avoidance can be a short- term fix, but it tends to worsen the problem over time. It's helpful to confront safe triggers you've wanted to avoid gradually. Some Veterans may need help from a mental health professional. 2. Remind yourself where you are and what is happening around you. Repeating simple remind- ers, like 'this is not a combat zone,' and 'these are only fireworks' can help reset the brain during a PTSD trigger. 3. Change the body's temperature. Safely lowering body temperatures can quickly remind someone where they are and help quell PTSD triggers. Veter- ans can take a cold shower, or use an ice pack, ice cubes, frozen vegetable packs or splash cold water. 4. Schedule meaningful activities you enjoy. Planning self-care can boost your mood, which can offset the overall impact of stress triggers. 5. Prioritize your mental health and seek treat- ment. VA offers support and care through evidence- based treatments for PTSD, stress and anxiety. VA also offers the PTSD Coach Mobile App that provides information and coping skills to help man- age anxiety or distress. To schedule an appointment with Hines VA Trauma Services, call 708-202-4668. "It's not always easy, but I cannot emphasize enough that help is out there, and it can help people regain their lives," said Tang. is year will be the 11th Independence Day since Solis returned from his last combat deployment in Afghanistan. Like most Independence Days since returning, he plans to spend it away from celebra- tions and large gatherings. "e fear, the pain — it hurts, but you have to ac- cept it and work through it," said Solis "It's the only way I can keep growing." Editor's note: Matthew Moeller is a Public Affairs Officer at Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Illinois is article is a reprint from www.va.gov/ A 4th Infantry Division soldier fires a M249 squad automatic weapon during a three-hour gun battle with insurgent fighters in Kunar province, Afghanistan's Waterpur Valley, Nov. 3, 2009. (Photo by then-Sgt. Matthew Moeller, courtesy DVIDS) FOURTH OF JULY MATTHEW MOELLER, PAO, Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital. COMMENTS? Editor@ upandcomingweekly.com. 910-484-6200. Prepare pets for Fourth of July festivities a STAFF REPORT Many people are eager for Independence Day celebrations. Festivities often begin in the afternoon with barbecues and pool parties, and continue late at night after fireworks shows that light up the night sky. Still, not everyone enjoys the extra noise and busy nature of July 4th parties, including furry mem- bers of the family. Animal control services often report an increase in lost animals between July 4th and July 6th. at's because the excitement of the holiday puts pets out of their comfort zones. Pet owners should take heed of the many ways to keep their pets safe during the festivities. Update identification. Be sure prior to any July 4th events that pets are wearing collars with cur- rent identification information. If an address or phone number has changed since the last time you updated microchip records, be sure to check the account is current. Be careful with alcoholic drinks. Party hosts typically serve beer, wine and cocktails. Alcoholic beverages have the potential to poison pets, says the ASPCA. Animals can become very intoxicated, severely depressed or go into comas if they drink alcohol. Keep spirited drinks well out of reach. Check with the vet. Many pets are prone to anxi- ety from loud noises, such as thunderstorms and fireworks, and lots of commotion — something that occurs in spades come July 4th. Some veterinarians recommend a small course of anti-anxiety medica- tion or a sedative to help pets cope with the stimuli. Create a quiet space. Allow pets to ride out the day in their comfortable, quiet and cozy retreats. If necessary, create a space in an interior room. Cover the pet crate with a blanket and offer favorite toys or bedding to create a soothing environment. Place notes on doors and gates. While it's best to keep pets in a locked room away from the fray, some pets like to socialize with guests and are not bothered by noises. However, alert guests with notes posted on doors and fence gates to check to make sure pets are not trying to escape behind them. All doors should be closed firmly when entering or exiting. Pick up debris. Firework debris can rain down on properties even if you were not shooting off the fireworks. Curious pets may pick it up or eat it, which runs the risk of an upset stomach or even an intestinal blockage. Check your yard before letting pets out to play. Keep an eye on the grill. Pets can be opportun- ists, and those burgers and chicken drumsticks smell delicious to pets. Pets that get too close to the grill can become injured. And if pets eat leftovers, they may end up with digestive distress or even be poisoned by foods that are toxic to cats and dogs. Pets need to be protected during summertime parties like Independence Day celebrations.

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