COLCHESTER — Later this fall, a veterans storytelling event is coming to the McCarthy Arts Center at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester.
On Sunday, Nov. 6, veterans are invited to stand before their community and speak for up to ten minutes about what their service means to them. Non-veterans are encouraged to attend and listen. The events are non-political, and all perspectives are valued, according to a Sept. 13 press release.
Other Vets Town Halls are taking place on Oct. 9 at the Godnick Adult Center in Rutland and on Oct. 16 in the Moore Community Room on Northern Vermont University’s Lyndon campus. All are on Sundays at 1 p.m., and are free and open to the public. Snacks will be provided.
"Having an opportunity to gather with community members assists with the reintegration process and makes it possible for us to move beyond a narrative of conflict by honoring and sharing our stories,” stated Jon Turner, host of the Colchester event. “Attending these gatherings are a reminder of the community we wish to embrace after military service."
Turner served with the Marines between 2003-2007 and deployed to Haiti, Fallujah and Ramadi, Iraq. Since his discharge, he has traveled extensively and worked with various communities to assist in the veteran reintegration process from paper-making to outdoor recreation and farming.
In 2014, Turner began to utilize the agricultural landscape as a classroom for community members interested in resilient food systems through service learning projects, internships and site visits for K-12, college students and military veterans.
Turner is the founding and former chair of the Vermont state chapter of the Farmer Veteran Coalition, recipient of the National Farm to School Innovations Grant, Sierra Club Military Outings Leader and currently operates Wild Roots Community Farm in Bristol.
Vets Town Halls were originated by author Sebastian Junger with the aim of increasing communication and understanding between veterans and civilians in their communities. The first event of this kind in Vermont was a November 2017 Burlington town hall spearheaded by local event coordinator Kristen Eaton, with support from many individuals and organizations. The events have continued annually in Vermont, with a break in 2020 due to the pandemic.
This year, Vermont’s events are supported by Vets Town Hall, a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation based in Vermont. The organization provides resources to local vets town hall organizers nationwide. Other local partners include Community College of Vermont, Northern Vermont University’s Student Veterans Association and Saint Michael’s College Military Community Services and Student Veterans Association. The Vermont Veterans Outreach Program will be present and available to offer peer support at all three events.
"Support of our military does not start with a 'support the troops' bumper sticker and culminate with grilled chicken on Memorial Day weekend," stated Rutland event host Kyle Aines. "As military members struggle to reintegrate back into society, it is imperative that society have a clear understanding of what they are transitioning from. The Vets Town Hall is that bridge and connection."
Veterans who would like to speak can indicate that when registering. Time permitting, veterans are also welcome to sign up to speak during the events themselves. RSVPs are optional but encouraged at vtvetstownhall.eventbrite.com. Questions may be directed to Kristen Eaton at email@example.com.
What: Vets Town Hall: a community forum aiming to increase communication and understanding between local veterans and the community at large
Sunday, Oct 9 at 1 p.m. at the Godnick Center, Rutland
Sunday, Oct. 16 at 1 p.m. in the Moore Community Room, Northern Vermont University–Lyndon
Sunday, Nov. 6 at 1 p.m. at McCarthy Arts Center, Colchester
Learn more & RSVP (optional but encouraged): vtvetstownhall.org