Hundreds of military family members will gather next week for Marine Parents United's 5th Annual Marine Family Conference, where they'll have opportunities aimed at helping them better understand military life.
"The conference will provide educational and social opportunities to encourage attendees to both understand and support their Marine and the commitment he [or] she made to the [Marine Corps]," said Joyce Gilmour, the organization's treasurer.
The conference fulfills Marine Parents United's mission statement of hosting an annual educational and networking conference to offer guidance to Marine families, though each year's event is open to anyone interested in attending, she said.
This year's event, which is being held in the Metro Washington area, begins July 23 and ends July 27.
Participants will take part in educational workshops, including how to recognize post-traumatic stress disorder and the issues surrounding its diagnosis. The audience will hear from a clinical psychologist and a representative of a ministerial nonprofit troop-support group.
Other workshops will offer tips on the best ways to support a servicemember and how to find troop-support organizations most beneficial to a specific situation. Participants also can learn about combat injuries and advancements in rehabilitation technologies as well as what the life of a Marine is like "from recruitment to retirement," from Marine Gunnery Sgt. Will Price.
Though the last presentation focuses on the life of a Marine, Gilmour said she believes anyone will learn more about military life from Price.
The conference is set to offer some less academic events as well. Marine Parents United will screen HBO's "Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq," and host a two-hour live radio broadcast titled "Talk With Heroes."
The weekend includes a good bit of socializing, as well.
Tours will enable participants to visit various historical military sites around the nation's capital. One of these outings will take the group to Arlington National Cemetery where, as in years past, the group will honor the nation's fallen warriors.
"This year we will have a dove release at Section 60, and then will be placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns," Gilmour said. Section 60 is the area of Arlington National Cemetery dedicated to servicemembers who lost their lives in Iraq.
This is just one of the events that will give participants a chance to get to know each other better, and the bonds formed during the weekend endure, she said.
"There will be a lot of time to get to know other people from all over the United States, swap stories and share experiences," she added. "Some folks are just beginning the rollercoaster ride of a military family, [but] lots of us are at different parts of the journey."
Registration for the conference is still open at $150 for the whole weekend and can be completed through the Marine Parents United Web site. "The fee covers [conference space] rental at the hotel, food and audiovisual equipment," Gilmour said.
Those attending and wanting to stay at the Westfields Marriott Washington Dulles, where the conference is being held, should call Gilmour directly. Her contact information is available on the Marine Parents United Web site.
Marine Parents United is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service