How much do you know about the veterans in your community?

Ten years ago, Dr. Theresa Cheng knew almost nothing. This year Dr. Cheng, a retired dentist, and Everyone For Veterans, the nonprofit corporation she organized, will host a Veterans Day Open Mic Town Hall1 where local veterans can tell their stories and community members can listen.

The town hall is one result of Dr. Cheng’s extensive experience working with veterans returning to civilian life. When she volunteered a decade ago to help the family caretakers of a veteran who had been seriously wounded, Dr. Cheng learned that most veterans don’t have dental coverage. From that point forward, she focused first on finding free dental care for combat veterans, then expanded her efforts to include finding whatever else individual veterans needed. Along the way, Dr. Cheng got to know the veterans themselves. “There is a gap,” she says, “between veterans’ stories and the awareness of the larger community.” Hearing their stories, finding resources, she realized most people were willing to help once they learned of a local veteran’s need.

In 2016 Dr. Cheng formed Everyone For Veterans, a nonprofit corporation with a three-part mission. “We want to raise the awareness of the general public to understand that veterans face a tough battle at home, provide a place where veterans can connect to their communities, and help veterans feel at home,” she says. “Veterans’ agencies do a lot, but members of the community at large can help, too.”

Hosting a Veterans’ Day Open Mic Town Hall marks the next step toward realizing that mission. Dr. Cheng heard about the open mic idea put forth by bestselling author Sebastian Junger and taken up by Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), a former Marine lieutenant who served in Iraq, on a National Public Radio podcast. Rep. Moulton held the first Veterans Town Hall in 2015.

The format, as Junger explained it, is simple. Each veteran has 10 minutes to speak about their personal experience of war within the boundaries of good taste. When one veteran finishes, another starts. While a master of ceremonies keeps the event on track, only veterans can speak.

Junger writes on his website, “It is my sincere wish that every town hall in the country have such an event on Veterans Day. Not only will it be tremendously beneficial to veterans, but it may help bring communities and even the entire country together as well. These events are also an opportunity to record oral histories of our nation’s wars, and it is a simple matter to put a tape recorder on the podium where people speak. One day there may be a national archive that gathers and stores all of the incredible testimony of our nation’s veterans.”

The Seattle Veterans Day Open Mic Town Hall will be held Sat., Nov. 11, 2017, 2:00 – 4:30 pm, in Washington Hall, 153 14th Ave. Major sponsors for the event are Netstar Telecom Navigators and 206 Zulu Seattle. Partner support comes from We Work for Health – Washington, PCC Community Markets, and Panera Bread. The event is free and open to the public.

To rsvp your attendance, visit Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/veterans-day-open-mic-town-hall-tickets-38528654242?ref=ebtnebregn.

- Everyone For Veterans