Everyone For Veterans, in partnership with What They Signed Up For, hosted a free event for the public to hear from veterans who were deployed to war at the Rainier Arts Center on Sunday.

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“Coming back was probably the hardest thing for me, because when I was deployed, everything made sense,” said Mario Dunham of Renton, speaking during an open mic for veterans organized by Everyone For Veterans, a nonprofit based in Issaquah, at the Rainier Arts Center in Seattle on Sunday.

Dr. Theresa Cheng, a periodontist and founder of Everyone for Veterans, said that she organized the first event last year because she saw a knowledge gap for those who had never served in the military. Her nonprofit mainly provides dental care for low-income veterans, but she wanted to take it a step further to build understanding between civilians like herself with the veterans that she had been serving and had come to understand as a dentist.

Dunham just got out of the U.S. Air Force in June after serving for seven years, having reached the rank of senior airman. “I want you to know that we appreciate you saying thank you and everything else, but don’t just say thank you,” he said. “If you have a vet who’s a family member or friend, understand who they are. Don’t try to understand what they went through. Because there’s no possible way you can.”

To learn more about Everyone for Veterans, check out their website here: http://www.everyoneforveterans.org/

Several of the speakers were featured in the book, “What They Signed Up For: True Stories By Ordinary Soldiers,” edited by Jeb Wyman, a teacher at Seattle Central College. Find out more about that here: http://blueearbooks.com/books/what-they-signed-up-for/