Tom French, Bob Tortolani, and Don Spencer have helped countless vets

BRATTLEBORO — This Thanksgiving season, due to COVID-19 and the precariousness of life, I find myself feeling gratitude for each small gesture and kind word extended in everyday life.

Perhaps because we now live under a larger shadow of death, I no longer take these ordinary niceties for granted. Has COVID-19 brought forth more simple acts of kindness among strangers, or am I now more aware of a humble graciousness that has quietly been here all along?

I feel grateful to inhabit a town where people volunteer to do things for one another. Everyone Eats is just one example of unsung volunteers supporting both local restaurants and people with food insecurity. I wish I could give recognition to each person making a difference in our community, but I will settle for acknowledging three people whom I have never met.

Tom French, Bob Tortolani, and Don Spencer have helped countless vets to live better lives. My husband is one of them.

If someone had told me 25 years ago that he would be attending veterans meetings and supporting other vets who feel isolated, I would never have believed them.

The trauma vets endure often leave them isolated and unable to receive the support they need. The kindness and persistence of many vets reaching out to my husband and offering him their time has transformed his life.

Bob Tortolani is the central spoke around which local veteran outreach revolves. He is sensitive to any suffering a fellow vet endures, and he takes the time to reach out and check in on others.

Tom French recently received the Vermont Bar Association's 2020 Pro Bono Service Award for his volunteer legal work for vets locally and around the country, an honor that he well deserves. There is a beautiful, detailed article about his work in the fall 2019 Vermont Bar Association newsletter.

Don Spencer, in spite of his own physical disabilities, makes time to counsel and advise vets struggling with mental health issues resulting from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). (And he raises delicious turkeys!)

Thank you Bob, Tom, Don, and every other volunteer for making our community a compassionate place. We never fully realize the goodness that ripples out from each of our isolated actions, but collectively they have the power to heal division and make our community and America kind, united, and great again.

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