Veterans to share stories at Town Hall events

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Veterans to share stories at Town Hall events

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 9:45am -- tim
Community invited to attend and listen as Veterans Day approaches

Vermont Business Magazine On Sunday, November 3rd in Colchester, Rutland, and St. Johnsbury, veterans are invited to speak, unscripted, about what their service means to them. All community members are encouraged to attend and to listen.

Inspired by author Sebastian Junger, these gatherings aim to establish a greater understanding between local veterans and the friends and neighbors they fought for. In the tradition of warrior storytelling, veterans are invited to describe the pride, grief, rage, or quiet appreciation of life that the war bestowed upon them ⁠—to share a story, summary of service, message, letter home, excerpt from a war journal, or even the story behind a photograph. The events are non-political, and all perspectives are valued.

“We often hear about veterans, but we very rarely get to hear from them, to hear their own voices talking about their experience,” says Marty McMahon, the host at the St. Johnsbury location, and a member of CCV’s Veterans Services Team. “We can’t have a real dialogue with veterans until we take the time to listen with no judgment.”

Jon Turner speaking in 2018 in Burlington.

"For many veterans, it may be difficult to speak of their experience out of concern for judgment and misunderstanding," adds Jon Turner, Chittenden County event host and an outings leader for the Sierra Club Military Outdoors.  "Having an opportunity to gather with community members to be heard assists with the reintegration process and makes it possible to find trust in those whom we did not serve with."

The event format is drawn from a June 2015 Vanity Fair article by Sebastian Junger, highlighting the challenges of post-traumatic stress among veterans. He suggested “making every town and city hall in the country available to veterans who want to speak publicly about the war” and believed holding these community forums would “return the experience of war to our entire nation, rather than just leaving it to the people who fought.”

U.S. Representative Seth Moulton (D-MA), a Marine combat veteran, hosted the first Veterans Town Hall of this kind in 2015 in Marblehead, Massachusetts. 2017 marked the first Vermont event, a Burlington town hall spearheaded by local event coordinator Kristen Eaton. Eaton, who continues to facilitate the annual Veterans Town Hall in Chittenden County, emphasizes that the events would not be possible without the dozens of individuals and organizations who have offered support and feedback since 2017. Among those are Community College of Vermont (which has coordinated the Rutland event since 2018, and added the St. Johnsbury location this year) and Saint Michael's College Military Community Services and Student Veteran Association (the venue sponsors for the Chittenden County event).

"Support of our military does not start with a 'support the troops' bumper sticker and culminate with grilled chicken on Memorial Day weekend," says Kyle Aines, CCV's Associate Director of Veterans and Military Services, and the host of the Rutland event. "As military members struggle to reintegrate back into society, it is imperative that society have a clear understanding what they are transitioning from. The Veterans Town Hall is that bridge and connection."

RSVPs are encouraged at vtvetstownhall.eventbrite.com. Questions may be directed to Kristen Eaton at kristen.eaton@gmail.com.

What: A Veterans Town Hall: Bridging the divide between veterans and the communities they served.

When: Sunday, November 3rd at 1pm

Where: McCarthy Arts Center, Saint Michael’s College, Colchester, Vermont

                       Rutland Free Library, 10 Court Street, Rutland, Vermont

                        Catamount Arts, 115 Eastern Ave, St. Johnsbury, Vermont

RSVPs encouraged: vtvetstownhall.eventbrite.com

ABOUT THE EVENT HOSTS:

Kyle Aines, who will host the Rutland Veterans Town Hall, grew up in the small mountain town of Tinmouth, Vermont. He joined the army in 2003 and served two tours in Iraq as a combat medic. He graduated from Castleton with a degree in criminal justice before joining Community College of Vermont as a Veteran & Military Resource Advisor, and now as CCV’s Associate Director of Veterans and Military Services. He has been with CCV since 2014 and his office is located in Rutland, although he travels throughout the state in his role.

After a period of service in the Air Force as a medic, Marty McMahon (St. Johnsbury’s event host) returned to academic studies in literature, language, and rhetoric, receiving an MA and an MLitt from Middlebury College. Marty has worked as a high school teacher, a chimney sweep, and a field technician in alternative energy (including working as a contractor and crew chief on the Navy TACTS program, installing wind and solar systems on their off-shore platforms). He has taught at CCV, Vermont College, and Norwich (supervising cadets while teaching Military Literature to Special Ops personnel in their Strategic Studies and Defense Analysis online program) before returning to CCV as a Veteran & Military Resource Advisor and Coordinator of Student Advising.

Jon Turner, who will host this year's Chittenden County event, served three deployments with the Marines between 2003-2007. 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. In 2014, Jon 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. Jon 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 Farm Vermont in Bristol.