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Blue Angels air show is traumatizing, some veterans say

Patrick Bouman
Traverse City Record Eagle
Lieutenant Paul Kruger (left), and Logistics Specialist Kristin Ceresola (right) stand next to one of the Blue Angels' F/A-18 hornets, June 30 at the Traverse City Coast Guard Air Station. Each of the seven jets fly at speeds of around 700 miles per hour during the air show, which is just shy of breaking the sound barrier.

The U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels air show is usually one of the most popular events at the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, but some veterans are not happy to see them return this weekend.

In past years, a group called Veterans For Peace have demonstrated against the air show. They believe the noise and sight of the jets could be traumatic for people who have witnessed war firsthand.

Tim Keenan is the chapter president of VFP in Traverse City. He has post-traumatic stress disorder from the Vietnam War and said the sight and sound of the jets remind him of bombings. He left the city this week to avoid the show.

“It really stirs up a lot of strong memories for me as a combat vet,” Keenan said.

In past years, his group has handed out flyers and protested to get their message across. Keenan said he doesn’t plan to demonstrate against the air show this year or in the future because it could be dangerous in the region’s political climate.

Keenan said many people don’t think about how the show could hurt people.

“No, I don’t think they think of it at all,” Keenan said. “I think the people that enjoy this don’t think about the people that it’s frightening for. The experience is frightening and brings back such vivid memories of horror and death.”

Lieutenant Paul Kruger is a supply officer on the Blue Angels’ team and said he hadn’t heard the concern before. He said he hopes everyone can still enjoy the show.

“That’s the first I’ve heard of it and we certainly hope that that’s not the case for a lot of people and we hope to not have that effect on anyone,” Kruger said. “We hate to hear that. We’re here to inspire. We’re here to show people a good time. We feel for them deeply if that’s the effect we have on them. Hopefully we can put a smile on their face in some other way.”

Patrick Bouman is originally from Whitehall, Michigan. He is a senior at Central Michigan University, where he studies Journalism. He will be interning for WCMU and the Traverse City Record Eagle this summer.