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Veterans group pushes for Blue Angels ban

The United States Navy Blue Angels perform during the 88th National Cherry Festival Air Show in 2014.

TRAVERSE CITY — Tim
Keenan won’t be among the hundreds of thousands of people who crowd
Traverse City area beaches to watch the Navy Blue Angels perform next
summer.

“They
scare me,” said Keenan, a combat veteran with post-traumatic stress
disorder and president of the Northern Michigan chapter of Veterans for
Peace.

Veterans
for Peace volunteers recently began distributing door hangers
throughout the city calling for the end of military demonstrations in
the National Cherry Festival. The handbill cites oft-repeated complaints
about noise and how the jets frighten the elderly, children, and pets.
But flyers also say the instruments of war are a military recruiting
tool; pollute the air; waste $100 million in taxpayer funds, and can
cause further trauma for veterans and people from war-torn countries who
have experienced bombardment and suffer from PTSD.

“These
door hangers are an educational tool, … because people just see the
thrill of the Blue Angels, they don’t see the other side,” Keenan said.
“They are bombers and have killed hundreds of thousands of innocent
people.”

The Blue Angels actually fly F/A-18 Super Hornets, listed by the manufacturer as a multi-role jet fighter, not a bomber.

Trevor
Tkach, executive director of the National Cherry Festival, said
Veterans for Peace has not approached festival officials but people have
dropped off the hand bills.

“This
isn’t a new issue, I know there have been concerns about the military
component of the air show,” Tkach said. “But we also know from our
surveys it’s our most popular event. The air show ranked as the most
important event both to visitors from out of town and to locals.”

The
Blue Angels have already confirmed their participation for the 2016
Festival and Tkach said officials will know about future bookings for
airshows sometime after December

Keenan
said he knows the crowds the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds draw are an
economic boon, but the city can survive without them.

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