Combat veteran shows what 4th of July fireworks are like with PTSD

Samuel Boney says he loves the Fourth of July, he just doesn't love the fireworks that usually go along with it. As an Army combat medic for three years in Iraq, Boney saw his share of death and destruction.

"It was hell,” Boney said. “There are no words to describe it."

Even though he's home, some of the celebrations surrounding the upcoming holiday bring him right back to the battlefield.

"Emotionally I'm a little apprehensive about it,” he said. “I love the Fourth of July. As a kid, I remember going and seeing the displays. Now I like seeing them far away. Now I don't like being in it and being around it because it sounds too much like war."

Boney's tour of duty left him with flashbacks, nightmares and battling depression. He says fireworks on the Fourth of July trigger his PTSD, causing him to hole up in his basement as soon as the sun goes down.

"My heart skips or just beats real fast,” Boney said. “I breathe heavily. Sweat. My chronic pain gets ridiculous."

But last year on the Fourth of July, Boney did something different. He ventured outside with his cell phone to capture all the fireworks going off in his neighborhood to explain, in real-time, what certain noises mean to veterans like him with PTSD.

"I'm sitting in the basement and I felt the whole house shake from some type of firework going off that sounds like artillery,” he said. "Right there I'm telling you that sounds like gunfire. Not even my service dog is making me feel good today."

"M-80's sound like gunshots,” Boney said. “Those little ones on the ground that go off sounds like heavy machine gun fire."

Boney says his service dog Birdie who keeps him grounded in the moment can only help so much. So if you're planning to celebrate the Fourth with fireworks, Boney just asks you make it an early night.

By some estimates, as many as half a million veterans are diagnosed with PTSD.