Free veterans conference in downtown Muskegon to focus on suicide prevention, explanation of VA system, family support & more

The 2018 ReCon conference at the Frauenthal Center. Photo courtesy of HealthWest.

A free, full-day veterans conference that will address alternative pain management, suicide prevention strategies, an explanation of the VA system, and more will be held at the Frauenthal Center in downtown Muskegon on Thursday, May 30 from 8am to 5pm.

The second annual ReCon: Veterans Resilience Conference, which is hosted by HealthWest, is inviting all veterans, their families, community members, veteran service providers, and anyone interested in supporting veterans to attend the conference. The event is free, but participants are asked to register beforehand at The conference will also include a light breakfast and lunch.

“Pioneering a veteran resilience movement starts with all of us,” HealthWest said in a press release about the conference.

“Resilience is one of the pillars to overcoming ongoing life challenges faced by veterans in their personal and professional post-military lives,” HealthWest continued. “Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed by anyone.”

The conference, which last year drew about 1,000 people to downtown Muskegon, will include keynote sessions, lectures, panel presentations, a resource fair, and various experts talking about:

• Veteran, family and community resilience
• Alternative pain management
• Suicide prevention strategies
• Overdose prevention
• Explanation of the VA system

The conference’s afternoon keynote session is being given by Mollie Marti. Marti, a social psychologist and attorney, is the founding CEO of the National Resilience Institute, a nonprofit organization that equips helpers with trauma-informed tools to grow resilience. She also directs Worldmaker International, a global human resilience collaborative. Through these initiatives, she has convened several national and international resilience summits.

The event’s two other keynote speakers are Medal of Honor recipient James McCloughan and Bob Vandepol, the executive director of the Pine Rest Employee Assistance Program.

McCloughan, a native of South Haven, completed his tour of duty in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970. During his service, McCloughan ran 100 meters to a wounded soldier lying on the ground while dodging crossfire. Upon reaching the wounded soldier, McCloughan shouldered him and raced back to the company, saving the man from being captured or killed. In total, he is credited with saving the lives of 10 men from his company.

Vandepol has long focused his efforts on examining how executive teams can lead organizational readjustment after tragedies and has co-authored books focusing on responses to hardships in the workplace. Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Vandepol managed CCN’s Command Center in Manhattan.

In addition to HealthWest, the ReCon:Veteran Resilience Conference is being presented by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the National Resilience Institute, and WGVU Public Media. For more information and to register for the conference, please click here.

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