Listening without judgment or interruption is one of the most powerful and supportive acts a person can offer, and that is what is expected of veterans and non-veterans alike. You may hear something you disagree with, you may have a question, or you may want to say encouraging words with the intention to help. However, we ask that you refrain from commenting in any way during the event. If veterans wish to continue a conversation with you afterward, that is entirely up to them. But the point of this event is simply to give veterans a chance to speak, and to bring the community closer around them.
It’s okay to leave the auditorium and come back. This isn’t a performance; it’s a public gathering, and the aim is that it be respectful but relaxed.
There may be an optional question-and-answer period at the end of the event. We ask that attendees only ask questions of the speakers who choose to participate in this Q&A.
Your children are welcome to attend with you, but when deciding whether or not to bring them, please be aware that speakers will address serious topics and that this is not a rehearsed event.
I’m a veteran and am interested in speaking. Could you tell me more about the event? What should I speak about?
At a Vets Town Hall, veterans of any era who have served in any capacity are invited to to stand before their community and speak for up to ten minutes.
Tell us what your service means to you. All perspectives are valued. We’re here to listen to whatever you want to say to your community, and to learn about what it was like to serve in the wars that this nation has chosen to fight.
Please tell us about your own experiences, whatever they may be, rather than speaking broadly about an issue or organization. You’re a member of our community, and it’s your stories, reflections, and insights that we’re anxious to hear.
If you’re a veteran who would like to register to speak, you can find event details here at vtvetstownhall.org. Registration is optional, but helps us plan. If you’re considering speaking but prefer not to register, we encourage you to attend. After pre-registered speakers go, the host will take speakers from the floor, time permitting. The goal is for every veteran who would like to speak to have a chance to do so.
Of course, veterans (and all community members) are also welcome to simply attend and listen.
If you’re not sure what you’d like to speak about, here are some starting points – but don’t feel limited by this list:
During your military service, what surprised you most about yourself?
Why did you join?
What was your hardest day?
What do you miss?
Tell us about some of the items, both practical and personal, that you carried with you while on deployment.
How did you stay in touch with family and friends back home?
How does your time in the military affect your daily life today?
When did you leave the military? What was that process like?
What or who has helped you in the transition from military to civilian life? What has been challenging or surprising about that transition?
What questions do you wish civilians would ask when they learn that you’re a vet?
Yes, veterans are welcome to speak again.
There won’t be any tabling at the event, in order to make sure the focus is clearly on the speakers and the experiences being shared. Of course, it’s important to share information about resources as well, so (at indoor events, at least) there will be a table with literature from various organizations. Please don’t hesitate to bring some fliers for this table. Representatives from Veterans Service Organizations are also welcome to bring business cards and share those; there’s generally some socializing before/after the event. If your organization has representatives who are veterans, they are welcome to speak – but we ask that they speak as individuals, not on behalf of the organization.
The national Vets Town Hall website is vetstownhall.org.
These events first and foremost exist because of the communities where they take place. They would not happen without the veterans who have spoken at each event and the veteran and non-veteran attendees who have shown up to listen.
Additionally, many individuals and organizations have offered advice, feedback, and support. Among those individuals are the event hosts: John Tracy, Jon Turner, Kyle Aines, and Marty McMahon. Many of Vermont’s Vets Town Halls have been organized or supported by local event planner Kristen Eaton. Kristen worked on the 2017-2019 Burlington-area events on a volunteer basis; much of 2021’s work was funded by a grant from the Vermont Veterans Fund.
Vets Town Hall (VTH) was launched as a national organization in 2022. This 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation is based in the state of Vermont. VTH provides resources for local event organizers nationwide. It also directly supports Vermont’s events. Kristen continues to coordinate the annual Chittenden County town hall through her work with VTH. She also works on the communications that make sense to manage on a statewide level, like this website.
Here are the Vets Town Halls that have been held in Vermont:
- November 2017 at Contois Auditorium, Burlington. Hosted by John Tracy. Coordinated by Kristen Eaton. Venue sponsored by the Mayor’s Office.
- November 2018 at Contois Auditorium, Burlington. Hosted by Jon Turner. Coordinated by KE. Venue sponsored by the Mayor’s Office. Marketing support from CCV.
- November 2018 in Rutland. Hosted and coordinated by Kyle Aines and Community College of Vermont.
- November 2019 at McCarthy Arts Center, SMC, Colchester. Hosted by Jon Turner. Coordinated by KE. Venue sponsored by St. Michael’s College Military Community Services and Student Veteran Association. Marketing support from CCV
- November 2019 in Rutland. Hosted and coordinated by Kyle Aines and CCV
- November 2019 at Catamount Arts in St. Johnsbury. Hosted and coordinated by Marty McMahon and CCV
- June 2021 at Camp Meade in Middlesex. Hosted by Jon Turner. Coordinated by KE. Venue sponsored by Camp Meade. Marketing support from CCV. Funding provided by the Vermont Veterans Fund.
- July 2021 at Prouty Beach in Newport. Hosted by Marty McMahon. Coordinated by KE. Venue sponsored by CCV. Marketing support from CCV. Support and assistance from Newport VFW Post 798. Funding provided by the Vermont Veterans Fund.
- August 2021 at the Godnick Center in Rutland. Hosted and coordinated by Kyle Aines and CCV. Funded in part by the Vermont Veterans Fund.
- September 2021 at Ethan Allen Homestead in Burlington. Hosted by Jon Turner. Coordinated by KE. Venue sponsored by the Mayor’s Office. Marketing Support from CCV. Funding provided by the Vermont Veterans Fund.
- October 9, 2022 at the Godnick Center in Rutland. Hosted and coordinated by Kyle Aines. Venue sponsored by CCV. Support provided by VTH.
- October 16, 2022 in the Moore Community Room on Northern Vermont University’s Lyndon campus. Hosted and coordinated by Marty McMahon. Venue sponsored by NVU’s Student Veterans Association. Support provided by VTH.
- November 6, 2022 at the McCarthy Arts Center, Saint Michael’s College, Colchester. Hosted by Jon Turner. Coordinated by KE and VTH. Venue sponsored by SMC Military Community Services and Student Veteran Association. Support provided by VTH.
Thank you to the Vermont Veterans Outreach Program for attending and being available to provide peer support at all events, and to Burlington Lakeside Clinic peer support specialists for doing the same at many Burlington-area events.
This event format was originated by author Sebastian Junger (War, Tribe), and the national website can be found at vetstownhall.org. The national website provides resources and a directory of events, but each event is locally run. Some events are run by individuals, some by elected officials, and others by organizations.
Please email Kristen at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.