Vets Town Hall, a Vermont-based nonprofit that aims to increase understanding between veterans and civilians, is partnering with local organizations to host five events throughout the state in early November. At each Vets Town Hall – in Bradford, Brattleboro, Colchester, Rutland, and South Royalton – veterans are invited to speak for up to ten minutes each about what their service means to them. Non-veterans are encouraged to attend and listen. These events are free and nonpolitical, and all perspectives are valued.
“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,” says Jon Turner, Vets Town Hall board member and emcee at the Colchester location. “Attending these gatherings is a reminder of the community we wish to embrace after military service.”
Vets Town Halls were originated by author Sebastian Junger (War, Tribe), who partnered with Seth Moulton on the first such event in Marblehead, MA, in 2015. For several years after, events took place throughout the country, but without a centralized way for people to learn more about them. One of those early events – and the first of its kind in Vermont – was the November 2017 Burlington Vets Town Hall spearheaded by local event planner Kristen Eaton. Vets Town Halls have continued annually in Vermont (with a break in 2020 due to the pandemic).
Eaton, who is not a veteran herself, emphasizes that all are encouraged to attend these events, regardless of whether they’ve served: “There’s something profound about listening without judgment or interruption, and that’s a very real way to show up for our community members who are veterans. Vets Town Halls offer non-veterans an opportunity to gain a more nuanced understanding of the experiences of those who have served in the military.”
In 2022, Junger, along with Turner and Eaton, formed the nonprofit Vets Town Hall with the aim of establishing these events in every state – and eventually in every community – in the US. Nationally, Vets Town Hall provides resources and consultations on best practices to those interested in starting events. Here in Vermont, the nonprofit is more hands-on, directly facilitating some events, and helping with publicity and outreach for all in-state Vets Town Halls.
This year’s program of Vets Town Halls is the most expansive the state has seen, and partners include emcees Kyle Aines, Marty McMahon, Tristam Johnson, and Jon Turner; venue sponsors American Legion Post 5, the Godnick Adult Center, Saint Michael’s College Military Community Services and Student Veterans Association, and Vermont Law School; local event organizers Sean Braunstein and the American Legion Post 5 Tuesday Coffee Hour; food donors Meals on Wheels and Cabot Creamery Cooperative; the Vermont Veterans Outreach Program; Community College of Vermont; and others. These events are supported in part by Vermont Humanities.
Veterans who would like to speak at this November’s events can indicate that when registering, or reach out to event organizers. Time permitting, veterans are also welcome to sign up to speak during the events themselves. RSVPs, at vtvetstownhall.org, are only required for meals, but are encouraged for all attendees. Questions may be directed to Kristen Eaton at email@example.com.
“Support of our military does not start with a ‘support the troops’ bumper sticker and culminate with grilled chicken on Memorial Day weekend,” says Rutland Vets Town Hall emcee 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.”
Vets Town Hall: a community forum aiming to increase understanding and create connections between local veterans and the community at large
• Friday, November 3rd at the Godnick Adult Center, Rutland. 5:30 p.m. meal, 6 p.m. event.
• Sunday, November 5th at 1 p.m. at American Legion Post 5, Brattleboro
• Sunday, November 5th at 1 p.m. at McCarthy Arts Center, Saint Michael’s College, Colchester
• Thursday, November 9th at Vermont Law School’s Chase Community Center, South Royalton. 5:30 p.m. meal, 6 p.m. event.
• Sunday, November 12th at 1 p.m. at Orange East Senior Center, Bradford
Learn more & RSVP
RSVPs are required for meals, but optional for the Vets Town Halls themselves.