NAPLES, Fla. — The Fourth of July holiday can be a triggering day for some veterans. The David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health and its partner, Home Base Florida, offer services to help veterans dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
“It's more than hot dogs and fireworks," Bruce Larson, an Air National Guard Veteran living in Bonita Springs, said. "Freedom isn't free. it costs you a lot of a lot of money. It cost you a lot of assets. And that unfortunately, at times, is people."
That's what Larson, 67, wants you to remember when you celebrate the Fourth of July. He said the holiday makes him reflect on his decade of service.
"It gives you such a sense of pride when you see the flag flying," he said.
But he said Independence Day also brings back some dark memories. In 1989, Larson watched his friend and fellow Air National Guard member, George Dugas, die in a plane crash during his last drill.
"We spent four and a half to five hours that afternoon trying to find remains," Larson said.
The non-profit Home Base Florida said at least one in three veterans, like Larson, have PTSD.
"It's a gift from hell," Larson said.
He credits Home Base for helping him with his PTSD. It's Senior Director, Armando Hernandez, said their mission is getting veterans the care they need when they come home.
“The suicide rate in the veteran population is at least 20 veterans a day, and one active service member. But Florida is actually one of the leading states in veteran suicide," he said.
Hernandez said it's important to be aware that the Fourth of July can be a trigger for some veterans.
“I think around some holidays, you'll naturally see veterans and family members reaching out for more care. I think Memorial Day is one of those. I think Fourth of July can be one of those for reflecting on service and freedom," he said.
Home Base partners with the David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health. Its Chief Operating Officer, Nancy Dauphinais, said one of the most successful tools DLC uses is Cognitive Processing Therapy.
"It involves really changing the way you think about the event," she said. "It focuses on different elements of relationships. Everything from intimacy and trust issues, to how to maintain a sense of safety in the environment, to issues of power and control and self esteem and how to move forward.”
Symptoms of PTSD include:
- Intrusive thoughts about a trauma
- Avoiding anything that might trigger memories of that trauma
- Impulsive behavior, irritability or anger
- Difficulty remembering
"If you've never gone through that trauma, when you go to bed tonight, Thank God,” Larson said.
That's why Larson said when celebrating holidays like the Fourth of July or Memorial Day, have a good time but remember the reason why you're able to do that.
“You're out there doing that, because we're free to do it," he said. "Remember that somebody has made this possible for you and me.”
If you are a veteran in need of help, you can call the David Lawrence Centers 24-hour line at (239) 455-8500. You can also call Home Base Florida at 239-338-8389. Remember: Home Base serves family members of veterans, too.