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Veterans with PTSD ask public to attend fireworks shows instead of shooting off own

Updated: July 02, 2019 10:55 PM

With the Fourth of July just days away, veterans are asking people to attend planned fireworks shows instead of shooting them off themselves.

"Ever since I came home, it was always like that- jump, jump, jump," said Thomas Eckhoff, a Vietnam veteran. 

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Last week marked 50 years since he was deployed. Eckhoff turned 21 while serving overseas as an airborne ranger. 

RELATED: Minnesota veterans, military personnel invited to state parks for 'Fireworks Free-Fourth'

He fought in Vietnam for about a year.

"I am honored to have gotten to do what I got to do," he said. "I was with many, many real American heroes. I lost close friends, I honor them all the time, every day, not just on Memorial Day."

"I think about them, we all do, all of my brothers," Eckhoff went on. "They did not die for nothing. They died for us, all of us."

Fireworks bring back combat memories.

"I can sometimes flinch, you know, it just happens," he said. "I'm not alone, young veterans do it too. All veterans would admit to it I think."

Dr. Brian Engdahl, a psychologist at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, said it can trigger a fight or flight response among those suffering from PTSD.

"The unexpected is the worst, the random, one in the morning set of explosions, can be really troubling waking people right out of their sleep," he said. "It's much more common than most people assume."

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For Eckhoff, "it's a big deal." 

When the fireworks go off at Veterans Park, he plans to be at his home. But for now, he's celebrating the start of the holiday week.

Just about every Tuesday night, Eckhoff is up on stage at the Minneapolis Richfield American Legion post with his band Rock Rangers.

If you or a loved one suffers or has concerns about PTSD, click here.

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