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Consider veterans before setting off your fireworks: 'It's a flashback, you can't help it'

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MISHAWAKA, Ind. (WSBT) – Fireworks will soon fill the skies as we celebrate the Fourth of July.

It can be a joy watching them, but many people don't know the pain it puts some veterans through. Veterans are asking neighbors to be considerate.

They're placing these signs in their front yards, seen above, saying 'Military Veteran lives here, please be courteous with fireworks.'

We "ooh and ah" at the sights and sounds, but it's those who fought for our freedom that suffers from the sounds.

"I've hit the ground before on unexpected ones and tried crawling underneath stuff," said Roger Metz. "It's a flashback; it comes back to you, and you can't help it."

To this day, the sound of fireworks can bring Metz back to when his vehicle was under attack.

"I see the RPG coming, I see the smoke trail," said Metz. "I see the hand grenade rolling across the ground and praying, 'Please keep rolling,' so when I hear the loud explosions, it's like my life is right there."

He wears Bluetooth headphones that block out the sound to help.

Veterans -- especially those dealing from PTSD --often have flashbacks from fireworks. But it's not usually the ones on the 4th.

"It's the fireworks on June 30th or July 15th that they are not expecting to hear an explosion," said Keith Ross, Veteran Outreach Program Specialist.

The unexpected explosions can bring a veteran back into a warzone mindset. Sometimes it's too much for them.

"We seem to [have] lost a veteran at least once a year for pretty much the last four years on Fourth of July because of the triggers," said Shawn Gourley, Military PTSD Executive Director.

Gourley started Military with PTSD in 2015, to help raise awareness.

Handing out the signs is a way to let neighbors know who supports them.

"If that veteran has the heads up they may not be okay with it, but they can be better with it," said Ross.

Metz says the signs aren't to discourage fireworks but to allow everyone to enjoy them together.

"That's what we fought for -- the freedoms to be out there have your picnics, have the fireworks and enjoy yourself."

The veterans we spoke to say they want others to talk to them first; if they can expect it, they might even join in on the fun!

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Veterans go to the South Bend Vet Center during weekdays and get one for free.

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