Yard signs warn fireworks can trigger veterans’ PTSD

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The bigger the show, the better: That’s how many feel about fireworks on the Fourth of July. But not everyone will be setting out the blankets and lawn chairs this holiday weekend.

For veterans, the loud 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.

(An undated courtesy photo of Rod VanOeveren serving in Vietnam in the Marine Corps.)
(An undated courtesy photo of Rod VanOeveren serving in Vietnam in the Marine Corps.)

Tuesday marked 50 years to the day since VanOeveren went overseas to serve in the Vietnam War.

Though never officially diagnosed with PTSD, he admits, 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,” he said.

And, of course, loud explosions, like from fireworks.

Local 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,” said Catherine Kooyers, a local veterans advocate.

To help veterans, one group in Indiana is shipping yard signs all over the U.S. as the holiday weekend approaches.

(Courtesy image of a sign encouraging people to consider local veterans before setting off fireworks.)
(Courtesy image of a sign encouraging people to consider local veterans before setting off fireworks.)

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.

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