GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – One of the biggest celebrations of our country, the Fourth of July, comes with fireworks and unexpected loud explosions: noises that can jar some of the men and women who have fought for the very reason we celebrate.
An important issue that many U.S. Veterans told FOX 17 News would help during the season of fireworks is eliminating the element of surprise. If Veterans expect fireworks, then many explain they can prepare themselves.
Retired Army Sergeant Rich Dorsey served between 1968 and 1969 during the Vietnam War, and recalled perhaps one of his darkest days. It was a bunker ambush, fighting side-by-side a now four-star general and another soldier who was killed beside him.
“The bullet hit my helmet, but the helmet deflected it so it didn’t go into my skull,” said Dorsey.
The Sergeant said when he returned home, he would dive hearing unexpected loud noises.
“I did carry that back home, and I would find myself ducking a few times, diving, with loud explosions,” said Dorsey.
Taking him a good ten years to get back to what he calls normal, Dorsey asks neighbors to be sensitive, and let everyone living nearby know when any fireworks are planned.
“I’ve sat in the middle of fireworks and you know it’s coming, you definitely prepare yourself for it,” said Dorsey. “When it’s a surprise, that’s what throws you off, and many times they are surprises.”
Dorsey said signs of post-traumatic stress disorder caught up with him in the ‘90’s. After reunions with colleagues, he realized he suppressed years of war memories.
“[Veterans] don’t understand why they’re reacting to PTSD because they don’t remember some of the things that really, truly affected them,” said Dorsey.
“I imagine it’s subconscious traumas that are kind of surfacing through mood swings and other emotional issues,” he said.
When it comes to celebrating our country, this Sergeant is all for it. However, he asks others to respect their Veterans and inform neighbors before fireworks, to help avoid causing any more harm to our heroes.
“It’s a great country and we need to be celebrating it; just be sensitive to the fact that, while they have not been through some things, they need to be careful with so it’s done in a structured way,” said Dorsey.
Dorsey explained that PTSD can be puzzling, affecting people in different ways, and leaving even some Veterans questioning why they are reacting to things in certain ways.
According to Grand Rapids’ ordinance, people are allowed to light fireworks on private property between 8 a.m. and midnight on the day before, the day of, and the day following a national holiday.