RUTLAND, Vt. – Special town hall events for veterans and members of the community will take place in both Burlington and Rutland, Vt., Sunday, Nov. 4 at 1 p.m. Inspired by author Sebastian Junger, these events are community forums aiming to establish a greater understanding between local veterans and the friends and neighbors they fought for.
“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, one of CCV’s Veteran & Military Resource Advisors, who will host this year’s Rutland event at American Legion Post 31. “As military members struggle to reintegrate back into society, it is imperative that society have a clear understanding what they are transitioning from. The Veteran’s Town Hall is that bridge and connection.”
In the tradition of warrior storytelling, veterans are invited to describe the pride, grief, rage, or quiet appreciation of life that war bestowed upon them. Veterans are invited to share what their service means to them through a story, summary of service, message, letter home, excerpt from a war journal, or even the story behind a photograph. Non-veterans are invited to attend, to listen, and to learn. These events are non-political, and all perspectives are valued.
“For many veterans, it may be difficult to speak of their experience out of concern for judgment and misunderstanding,” says Jon Turner, Burlington 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.”
The first event of this kind in Vermont was held last November at Burlington’s City Hall, where both Turner and Aines spoke and where the Burlington event will again take place. It was spearheaded by local event coordinator Kristen Eaton with input and assistance from Aines and Turner, as well as from Joshua Gerasimof, Katherine Long, and John Tracy of Senator Leahy’s Office, and many others.
“I was incredibly moved by the support shown through community interest in last year’s event,” says Aines. “We had a very good turnout at last year’s Veterans Town Hall. The impact and value of this event was palpable on the faces of the civilians in attendance and the veterans that shared a piece of their story. I knew I had to help make this a reality for both the veterans and civilians of Rutland.”
Community College of Vermont has provided support for both locations, and in Burlington, the Mayor’s Office is sponsoring the venue. Seating is first come, first served. RSVPs are encouraged at www.vtvetstownhall.eventbrite.com. Questions may be directed to Kristen Eaton at firstname.lastname@example.org.