Veterans will have a place to make their voices heard in Rutland in November at a town hall-style event.
“It’s really about giving a voice to veterans and what they’ve experienced,” said Tom Rounds, commander of American Legion Post 31.
The town hall event will be held at 1 p.m. Nov. 4 at the Post, 33 Washington St. At the same time on the same day, there will be another veterans town hall event in Burlington at Contois Auditorium, 149 Church St., according to a statement from Kyle Aines, veteran and military resource adviser at Community College of Vermont.
“Support of our military does not start with a ‘support the troops’ bumper sticker and culminate with grilled chicken on Memorial Day weekend,” Aines said in a news release. “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.”
Aines said Tuesday that the first event held in Burlington last year was a success. Being from Rutland, he decided to hold an event here as well. Aines said he’s in talks with the Vermont Veterans Home in Bennington for a third veterans town hall to be held there in 2019.
There are speakers lined up for each venue, he said, and anyone who wants to talk can register at bit.ly/1026TownHall.
Registration isn’t required, Aines said. About half the speakers at last year’s event were folks who spoke up at the end after they felt more comfortable.
Rounds said Monday that he and Aines connected a few months ago about this event. Rounds said it’s well within the Legion’s mission to host such a gathering. In the past, the Legion has served as a venue for forums with a specific goal in mind, such as education and feedback around veterans health care, but this is a little different.
“This is more of an opportunity for veterans to share common experiences,” he said.
Rounds, a retired Navy veteran who served during the Cold War, said he hasn’t heard from anyone in particular who plans to share anything specific, but feels if enough people come and start talking, others may feel comfortable speaking as well.
“For many veterans, it may be difficult to speak of their experience out of concern for judgment and misunderstanding,” Jon Turner, Burlington event host and an outings leader for the Sierra Club Military Outdoors, said in a news release. “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.”
“I was incredibly moved by the support shown through community interest in last year’s event,” Aines said. “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.”