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The Ultimate Thank You: Veterans Day at Barnstable Town Hall

Skylar Bowman, Staff Writer

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Photo by Skylar Bowman

Army veteran Anthony Encarnacion speaks of his experience while fighting in Iraq in 2005.

November 11th, Veterans Day, is classically known to Americans as a day to give thanks to Veterans that have served the United States, but on this Veterans Day, a town hall event reached beyond that. It invited average citizens to come and not only give thanks, but to try and understand what local veterans have been through.

The Veterans Town Hall event was run by the Cape and Islands Veterans Outreach Center, a nonprofit organization that supports local veterans. The idea was proposed by Jack Bonino, Director of Counseling at the Outreach Center, after he heard of the original Veterans Town Hall events started by Sebastian Junger, an American journalist.   

Starting at 10 a.m., in a second floor room in Barnstable Town Hall, 10 veterans were each given 10 minutes to tell their stories to a room full of patient listeners, as well as two veterans who volunteered from the audience. Soon into the ceremony, each veteran was going over their allotted time, and no one was stopping them.

Each perspective was a little different, their voices covering topics ranging from the difficulty of maintaining a relationship during active duty, to the extremely poor conditions of the countries they were serving in. Some even gave insight into their own thoughts on war, thoughts accompanied with the full understanding of what war is and feels like.

“We shouldn’t needlessly send our young men to go to war, unless it’s absolutely necessary,” said Vietnam veteran, Stan Lukas. He continued, “Most of the wars that we go to, it’s old men like me sending young kids like this to go to war, and that’s wrong.”

Others shared similar hesitancies with their thoughts on war.

“It’s not really a good answer to problems,” said Mike Burns, also a Vietnam veteran.

They also spoke of what it felt like to be in war.

“I had dug a mental foxhole for myself,” Ralph Negron, Vietnam veteran, said, explaining how he dealt with the hardships.

Many also touched on the pride they had for their service and shared short stories on some of their experiences.

The only female speaker, Katie Downer, an Iraq veteran, touched upon the conditions she observed in other countries while on duty.

“I was witness to extreme poverty, violence, and genocide to people for ethnic and religious reasons,” she said.

The chance for these veterans to share what they know, feel, and have learned is beneficial for both the average citizen and the veterans.

Executive Director of the Cape and Islands Veterans Outreach Center, Regina Giambusso, believes that “those who do participate [in war] carry with them scars, either external or internal, for the rest of their lives, and that they should not carry them alone.”

This is where the general public can help by simply listening. The event is nonpolitical and there is no question and answer period. The goal, in the words of Sebastian Junger and quoted on the event brochure, is to “return the experience of war to our entire nation rather than just leaving it to those who fought.”

This goal of trying to carry the burden of war with veterans rather than having them face it alone is what everyone in that second floor town hall room was celebrating this Veterans Day, rather than just saying their normal thank yous- but perhaps to the veterans, it was the ultimate thank you.  

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The Ultimate Thank You: Veterans Day at Barnstable Town Hall