WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — Veteran Mike Weaver will never forget the day he stepped foot in Vietnam.
“I went there on March 9th, ’69,” he told 24 Hour News 8.
It was the start of a violent 12-month combat tour. Weaver recalls one mission in the Que Son Valley.
“We actually went in with 70 guys in August of ’69 and we came out with seven. Everybody else was either killed or wounded,” Weaver said Tuesday.
Even once he was back home, Weaver could not escape the horrors of war. He said he was suicidal. He eventually sought help and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Part of you died when your friends died. Part of you still lives back there,” he said of his time in Vietnam.
Now, as the Fourth of July nears, Weaver can hear the sounds of war in holiday celebrations.
“A fireworks explosion can trigger an intense anxiety and stress reaction,” Dr. Sarah Mallis told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday.
Mallis treats veterans with PTSD at the Wyoming VA Health Care Center and has heard holiday horror stories from those who have served.
“Unfortunately, a lot of veterans find themselves sort of sequestered in their basements using noise-cancelling headphones or whatever else they can to distract themselves from the fireworks displays,” Mallis said.
Mallis said the main problem for most vets isn’t the large, organized shows. Instead, it’s the unexpected explosions in neighborhoods late at night.
“It’s a terrible feeling because when it first happens, you’re super alert anyway, and when it does happen, you’re on edge,” Weaver said. “Me personally, I go around, I’m doing a perimeter check of my windows and doors.”
But there is an effort to offer veterans a solution. One national group sends yard signs across the country, alerting people to the homes of veterans who may have issues with fireworks.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency have also teamed up to host a ‘Fireworks-Free Fourth’ at several state campgrounds.
But what’s needed most of all is simple courtesy for those who have fought to protect the freedoms we plan to celebrate this holiday.
“Take a walk around the neighborhood and let people know what to expect and when you’ll be setting those (fireworks) off,” Mallis said.
The yard signs will be free to pick up, possibly as early as Wednesday, at the Wyoming VA Health Care Center.