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Why veteran’s group is protesting Blue Angels show at Traverse City Cherry Festival

Aerial
maneuvers: The U.S. Navy Blue Angels streak across the sky above Grand
Traverse Bay and Traverse City in this courtesy photo provided by the
National Cherry Festival

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – When the Blue Angels take flight in the skies over
Traverse City during next month’s National Cherry Festival, some people
plan to head out of town in protest.

The festival, which runs July 2 through 9,
is again hosting the Navy’s popular flight demonstration squad. The
Blue Angels will fly over the Northern Michigan tourist destination in
three shows, each about 40 minutes long.
Trevor Tkach, executive director of the National Cherry Festival, said big crowds typically turn out to see the shows.
“The air shows and the Blue Angels are the most popular event that we have at the National Cherry Festival,” Tkach said.
However, Tim Keenan, president of Chapter 50 of the Veterans for
Peace, said he does not see the jets as entertainment and plans to leave
town when they arrive. The group was founded more than 30 years ago to increase awareness about “the total costs of war,” according to its website.
“When I think about the Blue Angels and the violence in the world
today and our country, to me personally and our group, they’re
instruments of war,” he said.
By opposing the fly-overs, Keenan said Veterans for Peace hopes to
raise awareness about what members see as the negative impact military
groups like this have on a community. The group’s website includes a petition people can sign to oppose the flyovers.
The protest is not in response to the crash earlier this month of a Blue Angel’s jet during a practice flight near Nashville, he said.
As a former Vietnam War combat veteran, Keenan said the noise from the jets can be traumatizing for those who suffer from PTSD.
“I know a lot of veterans are for the Blue Angels. They signify freedom. But to me they don’t,” he said.

Tkach said he thinks the show is special and Traverse City is lucky to experience some of the best pilots flying overhead.

“I believe it to be very patriotic especially on Fourth of July weekend in Northern Michigan,” Tkach said.
But Keenan said he does not see the Blue Angels as a reason for people to feel more patriotic.
“They should feel patriotic every single day of the year,” Keenan
said. “We want Traverse City to be beautiful and we think it (the Blue
Angels demonstration) takes away from the beauty.”

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