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Bristol vet helps give his comrades a voice

BRISTOL VETERAN JON Turner speaks at a Vets Town Hall event last year, where those who served in the military got to speak for 10 minutes about serving their country. Photo courtesy of Megan Humphrey

ESSEX — Bestselling author Sebastian Junger has announced the launch of a nonprofit to create connections and increase understanding between veterans and non-veterans. Vets Town Hall will provide resources to help individuals and organizations coordinate events where veterans of any era who served in any capacity are invited to stand before their community and speak for up to 10 minutes about what it was like to serve their country. These events are designed to be non-political, and all perspectives are valued.

“It takes courage to stand up and speak. It also takes courage to sit down and listen,” says Junger, referencing a quote often attributed to Winston Churchill.

Junger wrote about the first such event when he collaborated with Seth Moulton to bring a Vets Town Hall to Massachusetts on Veterans Day 2015 in his book, “Tribe.” Since then, dozens of Vets Town Halls have taken place throughout the country — but without any centralized way for people to learn more about how to organize them, or where to find the closest event. 

The fledgling national organization will provide support to local organizers and host a calendar of events at vetstownhall.org, with the goal of helping to establish annual Vets Town Halls in every state — and eventually in every community — in the United States. The organization also directly coordinates Vets Town Halls here in Vermont.

Junger serves as president of the Vermont organization’s board of directors. Fellow board members include Jon Turner of Bristol and Kristen Eaton of Essex, who have been working together on Vets Town Halls in Vermont since 2017. 

Turner served with the U.S. Marines from 2003-2007 as an infantryman, deploying to Haiti on a humanitarian mission and twice to Iraq in Fallujah and Ramadi. Since getting out of the service, he has worked with various communities in the United States to assist with the veteran reintegration process through agriculture and outdoor recreation. This past year, he helped launch the 22 Peaks Challenge, a fundraiser to support veteran organizations actively working to prevent veteran suicide. 

Turner currently operates Wild Roots Community Farm in Bristol — a 10-acre operation dedicated to community resilience through food systems education and wilderness living skills.

He has been hosting Vets Town Halls in Vermont since 2018. Turner was due to host a Vets Town Hall at Saint Michael’s College campus in Colchester on Nov. 6.

The organization has already established relationships with Student Veterans of America, which has released a video encouraging chapters to host Vets Town Halls, and GORUCK, which is hosting two events this year, and will release a shirt and badge to raise funds for the organization in early November.

To learn more about organizing or attending a Vets Town Hall in your hometown, or to donate, visit www.vetstownhall.org.

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