Conference focuses on military downsize, family transition

FAYETTEVILLE (WTVD) -- A two-day conference focusing on the health and stability military families amid downsize is underway in Fayetteville.

The 5th Annual Forward March Conference kicked off Thursday at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church .The event is spearheaded by the Partnership for Children of Cumberland County and the Southern Regional Area Health Education Center, an extension of Duke University.

The conference theme "Moving Families Forward During Challenging Times" revolves around sessions to address life after the military for veterans, dependents and community counterparts. Attendees and speakers from across the country include substance abuse professionals, physical therapists, clergy, and psychologists. Their sessions address issues including mental health, wounded warrior services, and behavioral health resources for military children.

Joyce Raezer, Executive Director of the Arlington, Virginia-based National Military Family Association said Thursday that communities should increase access to these resources in order to assist the millennial military family.

"We've had children growing up as children of people at war," said Raezer. "We don't know the effects on those families. We don't know the long-term effects on those children, and we don't know where the resources are going to be in communities where those families settle when they leave this nice safety net of Fayetteville, who understands."

Raezer said her group is finding military families most concerned about employment opportunities and healthcare post-service. In some cases, there's the added stress of an involuntary transition into civilian life as the military downsizes after more than a decade of war.

"There's a lot of uncertainty, and what we found when we talk to military spouses is the information going out to service members is not going to the families," she said. "So the family is feeling unprepared and so that's where we're trying to step in and say to folk 'it's a family that's transitioning, that needs help.'"

The conference continues on Friday with presenters from several local entities, including Womack Army Medical Center, Cumberland County Schools and the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center at Fort Bragg.

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