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‘Voices of Veterans’ event in Roanoke brings military community together

Some veterans are often reluctant to share stories of their time in the military but a local event gave the platform for some stories to be told.

‘Voices of Veterans’ was an idea that started with Brooke Tolley, the General Director at Opera Roanoke. The group has an upcoming performance they call ‘Glory Denied’ that tells the story of Col. Jim Thompson who was one of the longest-held prisoners of war.

Tolley wanted to start spreading awareness of the event and also had an idea to have a shared space where veterans would be able to tell their stories in front of an audience.

“Veterans are sort of notoriously quiet about their service and so asking them to stand up in front of a room packed with people and share their story … is an incredible act of bravery,” Tolley said.

Tolley reached out to Lee Hunsaker and Hoot and Holler Stories. The program has periodic events at the Grandin Theatre where members of the community are able to share their stories and typically they revolve around a theme.

Together Hunsaker and Tolley created the ‘Voices of Veterans’ event.

“This one is particularly an honor … to walk beside these veterans as they share these stories. Some of which are very hard, some of which they have never shared before with another human being … even their families,” Tolley said.

The pair took the event a step forward and created it into a fundraiser for Healing Strides of Virginia. The nonprofit uses equine therapy to help veterans in southwest Virginia.

Carol Young, CEO of Healing Strides, works with veterans on a daily basis. While the veterans get to interact with the horses, Young gets to hear some of their stories.

“The power of stories is very healing. The telling of the story, the hearing of the story, all of that’s a part of healing,” Young said.

On Thursday night, a group of veterans once again showed their bravery and stood in front of a crowd to tell their story.

Tyler Crouch works with Veterans Affairs and is a Marine Corps Veteran himself. Crouch told his story about his grandma and how she watched both her son – Crouch’s uncle – and her grandson go into the military.

Crouch said the power of storytelling can do more than just help veterans themselves but also help the people that hear them.

“Us telling our stories, us getting up and being vulnerable … is important. It shows other veterans and members of the community … anyone who’s struggling with anything, that it’s okay to let your guard down and accept help,” Crouch said.

Source: WSLS News 10

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