Former Detroit Lions QB Eric Hipple to headline free veterans conference in downtown Muskegon

Presenters explain Veterans Affairs and new legislative initiatives during a breakout session at the 2019 ReCon Veteran Resilience Conference on Thursday, May 30, at the Frauenthal Center. Photo courtesy of Wildflower Studios and HealthWest

A free, full-day veterans conference that will address post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide prevention, substance use, intimate partner violence, and more will be held at the Frauenthal Center in downtown Muskegon on Thursday, May 28, HealthWest announced this week.

The third annual ReCon: Veteran Resilience Conference, which is hosted by HeathWest in partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Mercy Health, is open to all veterans, their families, community members, veteran service providers, and anyone interested in supporting veterans. This year’s conference will include keynote sessions from former Detroit Lions quarterback Eric Hipple and military social worker April Thompson. There will also be lectures, panel presentations, and a resource fair, as well as a light breakfast and lunch.

“We are excited to have two dynamic and engaging keynote presenters scheduled for this year’s conference,” Doug Card, HealthWest’s veteran system navigator and chair of the ReCon planning committee, said in a press release. “This event will provide invaluable tools to military veterans, their families, and their supporters.” 

Routinely drawing crowds of more than 1,000 people to the Frauenthal, the conference brings attendees from throughout Michigan, and neighboring states, to downtown Muskegon for the event that focuses on empowering veterans to “lead resilient lives after leaving the military,” according to a press release from HealthWest.

A participant takes notes during the 2019 ReCon Veteran Resilience Conference on Thursday, May 30, at the Frauenthal Center. Photo courtesy of Wildflower Studios and HealthWest

“Resilience is one of the pillars to overcoming ongoing life challenges faced by veterans in their personal and professional post-military lives,” the press release stated. “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.”

Card emphasized that “you do not need to be a mental health professional to benefit from ReCon;” it is a conference meant to help a wide variety of individuals, from veterans just returning home to individuals whose military service was decades ago, as well as family members of veterans, nonprofit and community leaders, and anyone else who’s interested in attending.

“Every participant can leave with the resources they need to face life’s obstacles head-on and develop the tools they need to live a healthier life,” Card said.

Hipple, a keynote speaker, has worked extensively with military veterans, former NFL players, communities, law enforcement, and schools as part of his advocacy surrounding mental health. Since his 15-year-old son Jeff’s suicide, Hipple has dedicated his life to building awareness and breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health. In conjunction with the Navy’s U.S. Fleet Forces and PAC Fleet, Hipple has provided workshops on suicide and destructive behavior prevention; he too has established the ”After the Impact” program, a neuro-behavioral residential treatment program serving military veterans and former NFL players.

Thompson, also a keynote speaker, works as a military behavioral health social worker for the Center for Deployment Psychology at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Maryland. There, she is responsible for the development and delivery of both live and web-based training to military and civilian behavioral health providers on deployment-related topics. For more than two decades, Thompson has worked with military couples and families and has expertise in couples counseling, addressing the stresses associated with military life, and the prevention and treatment of intimate partner violence and suicide.

During ReCon, Thompson will speak about incorporating families into clinical care to support veteran resilience.

The ReCon Veteran Resilience Conference will take place on Thursday, May 28, from 8 am to 5 pm at the Frauenthal Center in downtown Muskegon. Registration will open at 7:30am. The event is free, but participants are asked to register at

One thought on “Former Detroit Lions QB Eric Hipple to headline free veterans conference in downtown Muskegon

  • January 29, 2020 at 3:29 pm

    —-breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health

    Starts with breaking down those taught or teaching there is one. We have empowered them for far too long.


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