The Veterans Education Project (VEP), founded in 1982 by Vietnam veterans, is an independent non-profit organization based in Amherst, Massachusetts. VEP trains and supports local military veterans to share their personal stories of war and homecoming in Western New England schools and public venues. We have about 35 volunteers of varying age and military era, from World War II through Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan.
VEP stories show firsthand the realities and human costs of war, and share strategies and resources for veterans returning to civilian life. By sharing their experiences, our veteran speakers gain an authentic connection with our community, provide a bridge between civilian and military worlds, and help us to heal the emotional wounds of war.
VEP also sponsors Military Families Connect, an ongoing peer group for local military family members with loved ones deployed overseas or home from the war. Some members of the family group also share their experiences to educate the public about the deployment-related challenges many military families face.
Veterans sharing personal stories that illustrate the realities of violence and deglorify war, in order to promote critical thinking, dialogue and healing in our schools and communities.
Veterans on an Important Mission
VEP Veterans speak in secondary schools, youth programs, colleges, public venues, and at conferences and workshops for human service and education professionals in the Western Massachusetts area. Speakers volunteer their time to participate in our training and programs, and their innovative presentations and extensive community services have earned local and national awards and acclaim. Many of the 150 hours of programming VEP veterans deliver each year are provided to schools and the public for free.
Some of our approximately 35 speakers are back from Iraq or Afghanistan; others have served in conflicts Somalia, Desert Storm, Vietnam, and WWII. VEP speakers— including those who served in non-combat roles— may share experiences that include overcoming addiction, family violence, incarceration or homelessness in our violence prevention programs for youth. While each speaker has a unique personal story to share, all seek to help young people better understand the realities of war and to think critically about the decisions we make as civilians regarding war and violence.
In 2007, VEP helped found Military Families Connect, a family support group that provides peer connection and emotional support to families and individuals with loved ones serving in or returned from Iraq or Afghanistan. Some family members train to be VEP speakers and share their stories the challenges they and their veterans have experienced as a result of deployment.
The Veterans Education Project is a registered 501(C)3 non-profit organization, funded by donations from individuals, businesses and foundation grants. The VEP is not affiliated with the V.A. or any other government agency, nor do we receive federal or state funding for our operating expenses. Donations are tax-deductible.
There is a huge disconnect between the American public and the war in Iraq…It is so important for our students—as well as the general public outside the classroom—to hear the voices and perspectives of veterans who served there. The feedback on your veteran speakers has been overwhelmingly positive.
Paul Sonnerson, teacher at the Williston-Northampton School, comments on stories shared by Iraq veterans at a Veterans Day all-school assembly that VEP helped organize.
When the presentation ended, I was left wanting more. …I liked how the speaker engaged and involved the audience throughout the presentation. Also, I was so glad the speaker shared his true story with us and didn’t try to cover or sweeten things up.
A high school student responds to a Vietnam veteran’s story
Sharing your stories and putting your life out for us to judge and feel is amazing and takes great courage. I am completely inspired by you and your actions as human beings. Please come back!
Student, Amherst Regional H.S.
To be able to walk into a room full of people that understood what I was going through was such a relief… a wonderful, supportive experience.
Military mom in Military Families Connect