VERMONT — All are invited to attend Vets Town Halls held this fall in Rutland, Lyndon, and Colchester. At these events, 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.
This year’s schedule includes Vets Town Halls on October 9 at the Godnick Adult Center in Rutland, October 16 in the Moore Community Room on Northern Vermont University’s Lyndon campus, and November 6 at the McCarthy Arts Center at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester. 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,” says Jon Turner, host at the Colchester location. “Attending these gatherings are a reminder of the community we wish to embrace after military service.”
“We often hear about veterans, but we very rarely get to hear from them, to hear their own voices talking about their experience,” adds Marty McMahon, who will host the Lyndon event. “We can’t have a real dialogue with veterans until we take the time to listen with no judgment.”
Vets Town Halls were originated by author Sebastian Junger (War, Tribe) to increase 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 the 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,” says 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more and RSVP (optional but encouraged), visit www.vtvetstownhall.org
Questions can be emailed to email@example.com
About the event hosts:
- Kyle Aines, who will host the Rutland Vets 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 CCV’s Associate Director of Veterans and Military Services. He now works as a general contractor serving Rutland County. Additionally, he serves as a mentor for The Warrior Connection and is transitioning to a facilitator role for 2023.
- After a period of service in the Air Force as a medic, Marty McMahon (Lyndon’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). For five years at CCV, he served as a Veteran & Military Resource Advisor while also facilitating the Veteran Reading Group for the Vermont Humanities Council.
- Jon Turner, the host of the Colchester event, 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, 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 Community Farm in Bristol.