Veteran Displays Sign To Help Those With PTSD

"Please be courteous with fireworks"

BRANDON, S.D. – Tuesday is the first day South Dakotans can buy fireworks in the state beyond novelty items like sparklers and poppers. For area fireworks shops and their customers, it’s an exciting and busy time. But for some military veterans, it can be the opposite.

Kenny Kuhnert earned the title veteran in 1969, after serving in the army during the Vietnam War. It’s the sounds that he can remember the most about that time.

“It was different, the sirens went off and we always wanted to head to the bunkers because you knew incoming rockets were coming,” says Kuhnert.

But the sounds didn’t stay at war.

“I tried to run some place for cover when I first got home,” says Kuhnert.

Fireworks triggered the same reaction the veteran experienced close to 50 years ago.

“Scared, you know, I didn’t know how close they were going to land,” he explains.

That’s why Kuhnert is placing a sign outside of his Brandon home.

“I had it right out front of my yard, so I’ll do it again this year.”

It reads ‘combat veteran lives here, please be courteous with fireworks’. The Brandon VFW offered them out for the first time last year, and Kuhnert says his neighbors took notice.

“They do respect the sign when they see it,” says Kuhnert. “They have a little more courtesy and not try to [shoot fireworks] as bad, or as much, I should say.”

The military vet says the sign is not so much for him anymore; he’s been able to get used to the fireworks sounds over the years. But he knows others haven’t.

“Sometimes it’s too late for a lot of them that already committed suicide over the post trauma,” says Kuhnert.

That’s why he’ll continue to placing the sign out front, year after year, for everyone to see.

“Just to get the word across that there are veterans out there that need help,” he says.

The Brandon VFW had 20 signs available last year. But they didn’t hold on to them long. The manager says veterans quickly picked up and placed the signs outside their home.

Experts say one in five of the approximately 2.5 million veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with PTSD.

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