A RUNCORN GULF WAR veteran has spoken about the impact of Bonfire Night on veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Kevin Walsh, 52, from Runcorn, a former combat medic with the Royal Army Medical Corps, suffers from PTSD himself because of his experience in the 1991 Gulf War.

He says sudden flashes and bangs from fireworks can trigger extreme anxiety responses.

Kevin, a founding member of Halton Veterans Legion, said: “If you suffer from PTSD then the massive bangs sound exactly like a bomb going off.

“At this time of year, I put up Facebook posts advising veterans to get their earplugs in.

“I will maybe watch a movie with the volume turned up and the curtains closed so you can’t see the flashes.”

Kevin, who has a fiancée and a grown-up son from a previous relationship, added: “I’m in favour of organised displays because at least you can anticipate the flashes and bangs and it doesn’t take you by surprise.”

Runcorn and Widnes World: Local MP for East Runcorn Mike Amesbury visiting the Halton Veterans LegionLocal MP for East Runcorn Mike Amesbury visiting the Halton Veterans Legion (Image: Mike Amesbury)

A former firefighter-medic at Stanlow oil refinery, Kevin said public events also reduce accidents and injuries, take pressure off the emergency services and limit the amount of the stress for pets.

He continued: “I’m a strong advocate for restrictions on the sale of fireworks to members of the public. I would like to see them only being sold the day before Bonfire Night.”

Kevin has attempted to take his own life on several occasions including in August 2020 when he pointed a replica combat rifle at armed police hoping to be killed. He was shot twice in his abdomen but survived after being airlifted to hospital.

Now Kevin helps support fellow PTSD sufferers through his work as operational director at Halton Veterans Legion (HVL) based at Halton Royal British Legion. This has included kitting out a Crew Room to create a ‘safe space’ for veterans with mental health problems, featuring sound-proofed walls.

Weaver Vale MP Mike Amesbury, a supporter of HVL, said: “Nobody wants to be a killjoy, but I agree with Kevin that there should be greater regulation around fireworks as Bonfire Night approaches.

“I believe organised, licensed displays are the way forward.

“This would make life better for forces veterans in my constituency – who sometimes suffer from battlefield trauma - but also pets, the emergency services and the environment.”