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Questions (FAQs)

There is no debate on the merits or justifications of war, no recriminations or accusations.

These are some of the questions we get asked most often, from veterans, organizers, and community members. Don’t hesitate to use our form to send us any other questions you might have.


Attending

Click here to find a list of upcoming Vets Town Halls. New events will be added to the list as they’re confirmed. To sign up for updates from your local event organizer(s), visit the homepage and click on “Send us your email.”

Yes! The whole point of Vets Town Halls is to increase communication and understanding between veterans and civilians in their communities.

Throughout the event, you may hear something you agree or 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 please refrain from responding to any speaker at any time. There will be no debate on the merits or justifications of war, recriminations or accusations. This is simply a chance for veterans to tell their community what it felt like to go to war. All perspectives are valued and important.

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.

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 these events are not rehearsed.

Generally speaking, after all veterans who want to speak have done so, the event is over.

Thank you for your interest in these events! Your help getting the word out and sharing the import of these events is invaluable. Given the deeply personal nature of the speakers’ comments, we ask that you please respect the privacy of these veterans by checking in with the event host and/or with the veterans themselves if they want to be on the record. Each speaker has the option of having the media turn their video cameras off – and, of course, to remain unnamed. We also ask that any videotaping should be done as unobtrusively as possible.

Please contact us at vetstownhall@gmail.com with any questions and so we can connect you with your local event organizer.

Speaking

The idea behind a Vets Town Hall is to give vets of all eras a chance to address the community directly and without intermediaries. As a speaker at a Vets Town Hall, you will be given up to 10 minutes to talk about what it was like to serve your country. All perspectives are valued.

We ask that speakers focus on their own individual experiences, reflections, and insights (rather than speaking on behalf of others or an organization). Please also keep in mind that these events are non-political and non-commercial.

Attendees are asked to refrain from responding to any speaker at any time. There will be no debate on the merits or justifications of war, no recriminations or accusations.

If you are a veteran who would like to register to speak, you find information on your local town hall here. Registration is optional, but does help organizers plan. If you’re considering speaking but would prefer not to register, we encourage you to attend. After all 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. Of course, veterans are also welcome simply to attend and listen.

While all veterans are welcome to speak, veterans (and community members) are also welcome to simply attend and listen.

Absolutely. All community members are welcomed to these events, and speakers and attendees are welcome and encouraged to attend with friends, family, and others who may offer support.

Many events will also have peer support present. Please contact your local event organizer for details.

Only those who have served in the armed forces may speak at these events, and we ask that speakers focus on their own individual experiences, reflections, and insights (rather than speaking on behalf of others or an organization).

Compliance

You can read our full privacy policy by visiting this page.

Running A Town Hall

We at VTH are acutely aware of both the collective national need to gather to process the aftereffects of war, and also the very real threat that such gatherings pose to the public health.

With that in mind, our recommendations can be found below. However, each organizer must assess the particular needs and risks in their own community and come to a wise decision about whether such gatherings can safely be held before a Covid vaccine has been found.

If you’re hosting a Vets Town Hall in a part of the country that is warm enough to gather outdoors on Veteran’s Day, we strongly recommend outdoor rather than indoor events. We recommend abiding by our own government’s guidelines of wearing masks at all times and maintaining adequate social distance between participants. While planning according to the realities of your community, your number one goal should be to keep people safe.

In colder climates, we at VTH absolutely discourage indoor events that may infect large numbers of people.

Instead, we recommend postponing your event until warmer weather makes an outdoor gathering possible, as outlined above. Although the emotional and psychological needs of veterans – and all Americans – are of paramount importance, those concerns must ultimately be balanced by our duty to protect each other from disease.

For all events, VTH recommends that organizers refer to CDC guidelines and state and local regulations for running any kind of gathering, indoors or out.

Town or city hall buildings are often ideal and free or inexpensive to use. If the town hall building isn’t available, choose an accessible venue that’s well-known and central to the community.

Many venues charge a fee. Depending on your budget, you might want to ask the venue if they’ll consider donating the space – or the mayor’s office or another local organization might be willing to sponsor the venue.

If you’re having difficulty finding a venue, please get in touch with us using the contact form at the bottom of this page.

First off, share the event on our website. We have a simple form where you can add the date and location of your event.

Effective ways of getting the word out include: social media; press releases to local newspapers, radio stations, and television stations; announcements at town meetings; and posters on community bulletin boards. Make sure to reach out to the local VA, VFW, and other veterans service organizations, as well as any community organizations that you have connections with (colleges, workplaces, faith communities, etc.)

Encouraging attendees RSVP will give you some idea of how many people to expect. Actual attendance will vary depending on your community and outreach and publicity efforts, as well as variables like the weather and any events that might be happening on the same day. While it’s ideal to have a good crowd, don’t be discouraged if fewer attend than you’d hoped; an event with modest attendance is still meaningful to the people there. If you can, set up the venue so it’ll feel cozy if attendance is light, but make sure you have plenty of chairs available in case you need to add more seating.

Arranging for insurance is the responsibility of each individual event organizer, and many venues do require event insurance. If you need or want to arrange for insurance, talk to any organizations you’re partnering with (or might like to partner with). If they have insurance, they should be able to list your event, with the venue’s required coverages, and any applicable parties as additionally insured. It means they are assuming liability, but it’s common for groups to do this for each other.

Event hosts will probably know when an emotional speaker has gone from having a cathartic experience to a destructive one. It is entirely appropriate for the host to step forward and try to manage the moment in a healthy and supportive way. Of course, emotional honestly does not excuse any sort of abusive or threatening language; at that point –  as at any public event – the speaker will forfeit their right to continue.
If a listener has an uncontrolled emotional outburst, the host should loudly and firmly remind people that the audience is there to listen, not to engage in debate or critique. An effective method for neutralizing a lone problematic voice is to ask the crowd for a quick show of hands, or a voice vote, on whether “we should continue engaging with this individual or move on and ask that they keep their peace.” Invariably the crowd will want to move on. That kind of peer pressure is almost impossible for an individual to counter, and they will usually get up and leave the event.
It’s also true here that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: Make sure that the event guidelines are clearly communicated to all attendees. Expectations for attendees can be included on the event registration page, on a simple program handed out at the event, and in the host’s introduction.

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