While fireworks light up the skies on the Fourth of July, they can also bring up distressing memories for some veterans with PTSD.

54-year-old, Robert Terstegge, served in the U.S. Army for 27 years. He’s been overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan and retired in 2018.

Some veterans, like Terstegge, use coping strategies like playing loud music or wearing noise-canceling headphones to help manage the stress caused by fireworks. Another thing the veteran does when he’s feeling stressed or anxious is ride one of his motorcycles.

“Riders call it wind therapy and we just get out there and ride,” Terstegge said.

He says he likes fireworks but has limits.

“I love the Fourth of July. I love New Year’s,” said Terstegge. “But it’s the noises, the sounds, the explosions and stuff that bother me.”

With Independence Day just around the corner, he’s prepared for the fireworks celebrations but in his own ways.

“I’ll put music on and turn it up so that I don’t have to hear it. It does trigger memories,” Terstegge said.

Terstegee is a member of American Legion Post #36. He says there’s a large community of veterans in Tucson with PTSD who don’t often express how they’re affected by these holiday celebrations.

“If it’s a one-on-one conversation, sometimes yes, we will talk about those things,” Terstegge said. “Usually, if it’s like a group setting that’s not something we talk about. It’s kinda, I guess you could say, taboo.”

Terstegge encourages veterans to build connections with other veterans and support each other through mental health struggles.

“Even if we don’t talk about it,” said Terstegee. “You still get that camaraderie and that is what I think a lot of veterans need, is that camaraderie.”

One day, Terstegge hopes to feel comfortable enough to enjoy every holiday fireworks celebration.