2018-11-08 / Around Town

Forum Offers Local Vets Opportunity to Discuss Experiences

By James Merolla

Middletown’s Sgt. Shawn Sexton, (Ret.), doesn’t know anyone who will be there, but he hopes to make new friends, because, as he says, “I have lost a lot of friends along the way.

“I will mainly talk about my experiences; about leaving my family a few days before my deployment… and those emotions,” said Sexton, 39. “I will also be talking about my military experiences. It’s going to be therapeutic.”

On Saturday, Nov. 10, from 10 a.m. to noon at Middletown Town Hall, Sexton will join Newport’s Joseph Kaiser, a retired Army medic, Newport’s Jerome Jordan and Middletown’s Stephen Amaral (a Newport native), among many others, at a special forum to recognize U.S. Armed Forces Veterans.

Kasim Yarn, director of the Rhode Island Office of Veterans Affairs, will host the forum. Inspired by Sebastian Junger, author of “War,” and “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging,” the event aims to bridge the gap between veterans and the community.

“In the tradition of warrior storytelling, veterans are invited to describe what it felt like to go to and to come home from war,” said organizer Nathan Stein of the Providence VA Medical Center. “Veterans can convey their feelings through a story, summary of service, message, letter home, excerpt from a war journal, or even the story behind a photograph. Non-veterans are invited to listen, to learn and to demonstrate their support.”

Kaiser, 56, spent 31 years in the Army, starting out as an aircraft crewman, then becoming a mechanic and a drill sergeant before entering the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and leaving as a paramedic and later working as an Army medic. He had deployments in Kosovo, Macedonia and Iraq. He will speak about preparing, “for the impact of the likely to happen.

“You can solve problems and treat patients, but you cannot plan or prepare for every contingency,” he said.

Kaiser, who can turn a phrase, told Newport This Week that he will contrast the “austere environment” he left in training for “the most dangerous place on the planet at the time [Iraq] and the severity and significance it plays on the medic.

“The environment is too dynamic,” he said. “Everything you use is either on your back on in the Jeep. You run with what you [brought].”

Jordan has been working on a 25-page paper about his experiences in Afghanistan. He will have much to discuss with Sexton, who did two tours there after Iraq.

Before the forum, at 9 a.m., members of the Gilbert-Burton VFW Post 4487 will conduct a wreath-laying ceremony at the World War I Memorial in front of Town Hall.

These events are sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the R.I. Office of Veterans Affairs, the Gilbert-Burton VFW Post, and the Town of Middletown. They are free and open to the public. Due to limited space, attendees are encouraged to obtain tickets in advance on Facebook or at Eventbrite.com, or by contacting Stein at 401-273-7100, ext. 1824 or emailing nathan.stein@va.gov.

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