DNR urges Michiganders to honor veterans without loud fireworks

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | C&G Newspapers | Published June 11, 2015

 Select Michigan state parks will offer a Fireworks-Free Fourth to honor Michigan veterans.

Select Michigan state parks will offer a Fireworks-Free Fourth to honor Michigan veterans.

File photo by Donna Agusti


METRO DETROIT — Fireworks are a Fourth of July staple.

From cherry bombs to Roman candles, Michiganders have enjoyed launching fireworks since before the Fireworks Safety Act of 2011 was signed into law, permitting consumer pyrotechnics on the day before, day of and day after designated national holidays.

But for some veterans, fireworks and other loud noises can trigger memories from military experiences.

This Fourth of July weekend, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, in collaboration with the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, is offering a place for veterans to celebrate the Fourth of July without the bang.

Various participating state parks across Michigan have taken a pledge to offer a Fireworks-Free Fourth. Although Michigan state parks cannot guarantee that aerial fireworks will not be set off near the park sites, the fireworks-free parks were selected based on their locations — the participating parks are located away from urban areas where large local fireworks displays are permitted.

Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency Director Jeff Barnes said in a press release that the MVAA is excited to partner with the DNR to offer a holiday without the “worry or stress.”

“(Post-traumatic stress disorder) is a normal reaction to abnormal circumstances, and it can affect anyone, and an event like the Fireworks-Free Fourth is a great alternative when celebrating our nation’s freedom,” Barnes said in a press release.

One in five veterans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has been diagnosed with PTSD, which can occur after a person experiences a traumatic event. And for some veterans, sounds — like the sound of fireworks — can trigger fear, stress, anger or sadness.

Twelve percent of veterans have PTSD, according to the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency.

Typical symptoms of PTSD consist of three groups — “reliving the experience, disturbance of arousal and blunted affect mood” — according to Philip Lanzisera, a senior staff psychologist with Henry Ford Health System. PTSD occurs in 7-10 percent of the U.S. population, and only one-quarter of the people exposed to a trauma develop PTSD.

“What happens in PTSD is that the sights, sounds, smells and a variety of those things associated with a traumatic event become triggers for memory, just as that happens for anybody in any anxiety situation,” Lanzisera said.

When treating PTSD, Lanzisera said, avoidance has never been known to help any anxiety problem.

“Ultimately, the only known effective treatment involved is exposure. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done without careful thought and planning and guidance and support. Avoidance is never the solution to the problem. It makes you feel good for the moment … and that is what causes the avoidance paradigm, and the avoidance paradigm makes your problems worse over time,” Lanzisera said.

Treatment for people with PTSD, including veterans, must consist of careful exposure to avoid retraumatizing the person, Lanzisera said, adding that he would never tell a veteran to sit in the middle of artillery pieces firing off rounds.

“It is a very careful process of figuring out ... what’s the proper dose of exposure to treat the problem (effectively). … It’s a tightrope that one has to walk. … If you’re in the service, you’re going to be exposed to danger. You can’t avoid that,” Lanzisera said, stressing that veterans need to know that they are safe during treatment.

For those traveling on Fourth of July weekend, the following Michigan parks are celebrating without loud fireworks to honor Michigan’s 660,000 veterans, including those with PTSD:

• Bewabic State Park in Iron County.
• Brighton Recreation Area-Bishop Lake Campground in Livingston County.
• Cheboygan State Park in Cheboygan County.
• Craig Lake State Park in Baraga County.
• Hayes State Park in Lenawee County.
• Lake Hudson State Park in Lenawee County.
• Leelanau State Park in Leelanau County.
• Menominee River State Recreation Area in Dickinson County.
• Orchard Beach State Park in Manistee County.
• Rifle River Recreation Area in Ogemaw County.
• Sleepy Hollow State Park in Clinton County.
• Wells State Park in Menominee County.

DNR Parks and Recreation Division Chief Ron Olson said in a press release that the DNR is “pleased to honor our veterans and offer that opportunity in several of our beautiful state parks.”

Aerial fireworks, including Roman candles and bottle rockets, are not permitted in Michigan state parks. Small novelty fireworks, including fountain fireworks, sparklers and ground spinners, may be launched at the campgrounds. The Michigan DNR implores people to avoid setting off fireworks in the participating fireworks-free parks during Fourth of July weekend.