HIGH POINT -- If you didn't know Kevin Haynes was a military veteran, you could probably figure it out when you saw the two flags flying from his front porch -- an American flag and a U.S. Marine Corps flag.
What the flags don't tell you, though, is that the 33-year-old High Point man is not just a veteran, but a combat veteran, and he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. That's why, this time of year, you'll also see a red, white and blue sign planted in the front yard of Haynes' home on W. Westwood Avenue.
"Combat Veteran Lives Here," the sign reads. "Please Be Courteous With Fireworks."
Haynes and his wife, Jennifer, put the sign out to remind neighbors and passersby that the Fourth of July can be a difficult holiday for veterans with PTSD.
"We didn't put the sign up to keep people from having a good time during the holiday -- we definitely want people to celebrate the Fourth of July and celebrate our independence," Kevin explains. "All we're wanting people to do is to be aware that there are people out there -- guys like me -- who struggle with PTSD, and fireworks can be a real trigger for us."
Kevin and Jennifer encourage those who have a neighbor with PTSD not to set off fireworks without first notifying the veteran about when and where you plan to set off the fireworks. They also discourage the use of fireworks at odd hours, such as late at night.
"Last year when we put the sign up, we had a neighbor from a couple of houses down who came by and asked us, 'Do you mind if we set off our fireworks?'" Kevin recalls. "We said, 'No, absolutely not -- we want you to enjoy the holiday. But those fireworks people shoot off at 2 or 3 in the morning? Please don't do that.'"
Loud, unexpected noises such as fireworks are extremely common triggers for combat veterans suffering from PTSD, because the noises can remind them of gunfire or explosions they experienced on the battlefield.
That's certainly the case for Kevin, a former Marine -- he served from 2003 to 2013 -- who did three tours of duty in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. As a combat engineer, he specialized in such areas as demolitions, explosives and land-mine warfare.
"Anything that went boom, that was my job," he says.
Consequently, anything that goes boom here in the States -- for example, a bundle of firecrackers or a high-flying mortar shell -- can trigger a PTSD flashback for Kevin.
"I don't think we've gone to watch fireworks for quite a few years now," he says.
Not only that, but the couple usually stay at home on the Fourth of July and try to drown out the inevitable symphony of fireworks.
"We put on the music and turn it up," Jennifer says. "Basically, I just try to distract him and have conversations with him. And the music helps -- anything that can drown out what's going on around us."
Kevin learned about the "Combat Veteran Lives Here" sign from a fellow veteran who also struggles with PTSD. He immediately went to the sign-maker's website, www.militarywithptsd.org, and ordered one for himself.
The idea is not to spoil anyone's holiday fun, Jennifer says, but to raise awareness of PTSD and the impact it has on veterans.
"It's like we tell people all the time, not all scars are visible -- you can't see what's on the inside," she says. "We're just trying to bring awareness to people who don't know, because this is something most people wouldn't think about."
This article is written by Jimmy Tomlin from The High Point Enterprise, N.C. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.