Cheshire war veteran says fireworks make him drag his wife to safety as his ‘head goes elsewhere’

A former solider has spoken of the impact that fireworks can have on veterans.

Richard Smith, 44, a former sergeant with the Coldstream Guards, has said how sudden flashes and bangs can trigger extreme anxiety responses.

With Bonfire Night around the corner, Richard, who lives in Frodsham, is campaigning for publicly organised fireworks displays with the support of his MP Mike Amesbury.

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Richard, who served in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan, says many ex-servicemen and women suffer with mental health problems such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder because of their experience on the battlefield.

Richard, who signed up for the Army at 17, said: “Service people go to places where you would never wish to go and experience things you would never wish to experience.

Richard Smith, 44
(Image: Richard Smith)

“Kids used throw fireworks at us in Northern Ireland and in Iraq I was mortared and shot at.”

A First Aid trainer for St John Ambulance, he added: “If I‘m walking down the street with my wife Caz when a firework goes off, I’m likely to grab her and pull her behind a fence for her protection. The adrenaline kicks in and my head goes somewhere else.”

Since leaving in 2013, the father-of-three has lost eight of his comrades to suicide due to mental health issues.

He added: “It’s not just Bonfire Night but any kind of celebrations can involve fireworks; house parties, religious festivals and New Year’s Eve. As a veteran, you’ve got to get your head around that and it’s the ones we don’t know about that really affect us.”

Richard discussed the impact of fireworks on veterans
(Image: Richard Smith)

Richard would like to see organised events held within an agreed time frame to take away the element of surprise so veterans are not upset by unexpected bangs in the street or garden displays.

A Scout Leader at 4th Frodsham (Overton) Scout Group, he also believes public events would bring the community together, reduce accidents and injuries, take pressure off the emergency services and limit the amount of stress for pets.

On Monday, MPs will consider a petition signed by 301,610 people that calls for the sale and use of fireworks to be limited to displays only, by introducing licensing via local authorities.

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Weaver Vale MP Mike Amesbury, who has long supported this aim, said: “Without being a killjoy we need to consider others and move more towards a system of organised celebrations.

“People tend to focus on the impact on pets and I have a dog myself. But as we approach Remembrance Sunday, let’s spare a thought for people like Richard, one of my constituents, who has served his country and actually his anxiety levels and health are affected by fireworks, which have become an all year-round phenomenon.”

Cheshire Live – Cheshire