• 05
    Posted in:
    Downriver Community Creates Free PTSD Signs for Veterans

    Many communities splurge on a professional fireworks display to light up local skies after dark, while others extend their Independence Day festivities into the daytime as well with parades and festivals. However, there is one group of the population that is often overlooked when it comes to fireworks: US military veterans. But Woodhaven, Michigan, a town in the Downriver area of Detroit, has found a solution that helps the community celebrate while remaining sensitive.

    Veterans and Fireworks

    WXYZ Detroit wrote a thoughtful piece on Woodhaven this week detailing concerns surrounding the Fourth of July. The important thing to point out first is that veterans are not opposed to fireworks displays. However, the use of fireworks by revelers at unexpected times can trigger PTSD in those who’ve seen combat.

    The mayor of Woodhaven said the following, explaining the trigger in plain terms:

    “Be aware that those firecrackers sound like gunshots to them.”

    Many veterans help plan and organize Fourth of July festivities and thoroughly enjoy the patriotism of the holiday. The random explosions are just jarring and often bring back stressful memories of their deployment.

    Fireworks display

    Image by Cristian M. Ioan via Flickr

    One Solution in Downriver Detroit

    For several years, Woodhaven has given out free signs to veterans who want them, saying “Combat Veteran Lives Here: Please be courteous with fireworks” with a link to the website of a PTSD organization. The sign itself appears to be a corrugated yard sign with metal stakes, printed with red, white, and blue ink, similar to that of a campaign sign.

    This simple sign brings awareness to a seldom-discussed aspect of Independence Day, and it helps start conversations among residents throughout the area. The veterans who do not want signs to identify them are also encouraging their neighbors who know about their military service to stop by and talk to them in person about any after-hours fireworks. This will hopefully create more empathy and bring the Downriver community of Woodhaven even closer to its veterans.

    The Origin Behind These Signs

    While these signs have been given out in Woodhaven for years, their origin appears to date back at least four years.

    In 2015, the Washington Post wrote a piece explaining how this movement first came about because of a homemade version of the sign.

    Shawn Gourley, co-founder of Military With PTSD (the non-profit whose website is listed on the sign), posted a picture of a veteran holding a homemade sign to Facebook and watched the image go viral. This led Gourley to contact that veteran and ask if her organization could hand out professionally made versions of the yard signs. With that veteran’s approval, Gourley’s organization started collecting donations: $15 for two signs, one for the purchaser and another that would be given to a veteran for free.

    While the events between Gourley’s first successful run of the signs and their use in Downriver Detroit are unclear, it’s great to see that the idea has spread to our local communities.

    Example of Downriver houses

    Image by AnimatedMartian via Flickr

    Fireworks Displays

    The city of Detroit’s official fireworks display happened Monday, June 24th, but there are continuous displays that go on throughout the week surrounding Independence Day. Dearborn had theirs on July 3 and there will be a separate “Live Mural Showcase” in Detroit on July 6. In addition to this, miscellaneous families and individuals set off fireworks on their own throughout the month.

    The Fourth of July is definitely a time to celebrate our country’s revolutionary win, but it’s also a time to be considerate toward those who served to protect it’s future.

    Featured image by Peterrieke via Flickr
  • Visit Our Detroit Blog

    Detroit Blog