By Stephanie Yancer, Social Media Coordinator for Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources
The way we celebrate the Fourth of July in the United States, with large community firework displays, can sometimes be harmful to those who have fought to give us the freedoms that we are celebrating.
One in five veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI). Sometimes PTSI is referred to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSI is a condition that can occur after a person has been through a traumatic event. Even when removed from the stressful situation, similar sounds or experiences, such as fireworks, can trigger an unwanted response.
A veteran, who is now employed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), approached some members of the DNR management team to discuss how harmful fireworks can be to those who were/are in the military. Many of the 640,000 veterans living in Michigan have PTSI, and the DNR staff decided to make it a priority to address the issue. We wanted to show our veterans that we care. According to park staff, while many parks did get visitors looking for fireworks, other parks did not. Staff at more remote parks noted that they were so far removed from celebrations that it was usually a quiet weekend for them. That’s when the DNR decided to start promoting those parks for our veterans.
The DNR approached the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) with the idea of promoting quieter Fourth of July locations. MVAA had the tools to promote the program to veterans, and they did not hesitate. The DNR and the MVAA both believed it would be a win for all veterans with PTSI.
Once the DNR and the MVAA made the announcement about their partnership to promote Fireworks-Free Fourth of July, the citizens of Michigan began to respond. Not only did the DNR hear from veterans, but they also heard from many others. Several senior citizens contacted the DNR to say thank you because they enjoy the quiet. Many pet owners said their dogs were scared of fireworks and this was a perfect opportunity for them as well. Parents of children with autism also contacted the DNR, thanking us for providing and promoting locations like this to help their children cope with the holiday. The DNR did not realize the magnitude of offering fireworks-free parks and how many people it was really impacting.
Now in its fourth year, Fireworks-Free Fourth of July, has 11 parks participating. These parks are a little more remote and are farther away from big community displays, therefore making it a quieter campground. The following parks will be Fireworks Free Fourth locations from July 1-4, 2017:
The DNR is hoping that others around the nation will recognize the impact of fireworks on our veterans and join us in offering quieter celebrations. We ask that you join the conversation online and spread the word about Fireworks-Free Fourth of July with the hashtag #FwF4th.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephanie Yancer is the Social Media Coordinator for Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR). She has over 20 years of experience in the field of parks and recreation. Parks and Recreation Division (PRD). She is responsible for creating content for all of the state parks and recreation area’s social media accounts. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Parks, Recreation and Leisure Services from Central Michigan University and she is currently working on a Master’s Degree in Administration from Central Michigan.