GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Not everyone will be setting out the blankets and lawn chairs this holiday weekend. For veterans, the loud firework noises can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder and bring back horrifying memories of war. “If it’s an organized display, I don’t have too much of a problem with that. There’s some people around here that will throw those great big ones up in the air and go ‘boom!’ That will be bring back some memories,” Rod VanOeveren, who was a sergeant in the U.S. Marines Corps, said.
Tuesday marked 50 years to the day since VanOeveren went overseas to serve in the Vietnam War. Though never officially diagnosed with PTSD, he said the war still stings all these years later. “I do have some baggage that I carry. There’s certain things that kind of trip the switch, sound of a helicopter, the smell of a fire,” VanOeveren said. Fireworks are another trigger.
Veterans advocates say there are many veterans who don’t mind fireworks, but others can’t handle them at all. “I talked to one today who said he’s going to close his windows, turn up his stereo and shut out the world until it’s over,” advocate Catherine Kooyers said.
To help veterans, one group in Indiana is shipping yard signs all over the U.S. as the holiday weekend approaches. They read, “Combat veteran lives here. Please be courteous with fireworks.” They are a simple reminder to talk with your neighbors before letting the fireworks fly. “Are you doing the veterans a service or a disservice? Get to know your neighbors, find out what they’re comfortable with,” Kooyers said. If you’d like one of those signs for yourself or a family member, or to donate so a veteran can get one for free, you can go to MilitarywithPTSD.org.