FAYETTEVILLE, N.C.--Community and military leaders met at the 3rd annual Forward March Conference here Oct. 18-19 to strengthen the partnership between the civilian and military community and create more awareness of issues Soldiers and their Families face.
More than 50 speakers, comprised of educators, health and legal professionals, and clergy came together to share viewpoints and discuss unique demands faced by military families.
"This conference is a great way to bring awareness to the greater community of the challenges within military life," said Col. Chad B. McRee, commander, 16th Military Police Brigade, who co-presented a breakout session on suicide prevention for members of the military and veterans.
One of the challenges addressed was the problems the Army is encountering with suicide and how to prevent it.
"We've heard many great stories of intervention from other Soldiers, Families and members of the community, who have gotten involved with each other's lives," said McRee, Fort Bragg's director of suicide prevention. "Relationships are the key. The only way to really know if someone is having a problem is to know the people around you."
This conference serves as means for providing the resources necessary to address the current and distinct needs of the military Family, including military children.
Many young people with links to the military tend to have a lot more stressors that others might not have, said Suzanne H. Maness, executive director and co-founder of Called Into Action, an organization focusing on 10-17-year olds. They have parents and friends deploying, and then coming back and having to re-integrate.
The main focus of the two-day gathering was how communities can work together with the military services to provide the best care possible for servicemembers and their Families.
"With all the stresses on the force as a result of repeated deployments, there is a need for [collaborative] behavioral health care," said Lt. Col. Michael J. Tarpey, division surgeon, 82nd Airborne Division.
Not everyone in the audience was directly linked with the military, but attended to gain a better understanding of intervention techniques to share with other members of the community.
"It will make people more aware of what is really going on," said Maness. "We can't look at it like we used to -- it's a whole other ball game."