Roughly 100 people attended Congressman and Marine Corps veteran Seth Moulton’s ninth annual Veterans Town Hall at Abbot Hall Friday afternoon. Those in the audience had the opportunity to hear five veterans share their stories of sacrifice.
16-year Army veteran Leanna Lynch took the podium after Moulton’s opening remarks to discuss the challenges she had to overcome as a woman in the military.
“Being a woman in the military was very difficult,” Lynch said. “You had to prove yourself in order to get respect and in order to be recognized. You had to keep up with the boys in a man’s world.”
Lynch now works as a community relations specialist for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Bedford.
The next guest speaker was Donald Jarvis, who followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather by joining the National Guard. He explained how he uses the hardships he endured during his time in Iraq and Afghanistan to help his peers in his current position as the director of veterans services for Billerica.
“I am completely deaf on my right side, I have right-side injuries up and down, and a traumatic brain injury that can affect me from day to day,” Jarvis explained. “I use all of those challenges and obstacles to help other veterans work through their traumas.”
Marine Corps veteran Eric Ryan said he is grateful to have found purpose in his role as a residential case manager for Clear Path for Veterans New England.
“Through unbelievable individuals that I work with, we’ve been able to take homeless veterans off the streets, living in their car, living in the woods, we’ve actually got them housing security, benefits they never knew they were even eligible for,” Ryan said. “It’s probably one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done in my life and one of the most frustrating things I’ve done in my life.”
Patrick Kirby is the public affairs officer for the Bedford VA. The Army veteran is grateful to have a job that helps raise veterans awareness.
“I want to continue to serve to give back to the veterans that came before me,” Kirby said. “That’s why I’m so thankful to be public affairs officer, because through social media, through media and professional liaisons, we’re able to get things done.”
The last guest speaker was Army veteran Steve Bohn, who joined the military after his friend Jared Raymond was killed by an explosive device in Iraq in 2006.
“His story really inspired me to join the military,” Bohn said. “I quit my job right after his funeral and that was probably the best thing I’ve ever done. It taught me how to be a man.”
At the event’s conclusion, veterans in the audience were invited to take the microphone. The crowd got to hear from Air Force veteran Carol Bousquet and Marine Corps veteran Larry Jordan.
Moulton said he is thankful for the support veterans get in today’s society. He described why he thinks events like this are important for all parties involved.
“The idea of this is to bring veterans and non-veterans together, veterans together with the communities that we fought to protect because we love (them), and try to bridge that divide a little bit,” Moulton said. “It is cathartic for veterans, but to me it’s even more important for what it does for the broader community.”
Throughout the event, a protest was held outside Abbot Hall, advocating for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war. The protest was led by members of the North Shore Quakers and Veterans for Peace.
“We’re trying to emphasize a non-violent resolution in Gaza,” Veterans for Peace member Martin Ray said. “It’s going to take all sides making accommodations.”
While Moulton appreciated the peaceful nature of the protest, he argued that the Veterans Town Hall was not the most appropriate occasion for it.
“It’s a bit disappointing that they tried to politicize a completely apolitical event,” Moulton said. “But at least they were respectful and stayed outside.”