Farmington conference promotes awareness of veteran issues

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FARMINGTON — The fourth annual veterans conference, Bringing Worlds Together, planned for Sept. 19, is an opportunity for community and faith-based members to become aware of veterans’ issues, organizer Jerry DeWitt said.

The free conference takes place from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Olson Student Center at the University of Maine Farmington and is offered to military veterans and their families, community members and service providers.

The goal is to show the many paths veterans and their families may take to find the way back from service life to civilian life, he said.

Following successful conferences the past three years, veterans and families from across the state have already signed up, he said.

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This year, the major focus of keynote speaker the Rev. Peter E. Bauer is moral injury or how people learn to live with things they’ve done. Acts of war, such as killing, go against what people are taught, DeWitt said.

Bauer is a minister, social worker and teacher and has extensive experience working with service members, veterans and their families. He was part of a treatment team that dealt with the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, DeWitt said.

Maine weatherman and author Kevin Mannix will also share from his experience with feeling shame and why it is so important to not let life go by.

When a veteran gets back from service, they are not the same person they were when they left, families begin falling apart, DeWitt said.

Nationwide, 22 veterans a day with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health and substance abuse issues commit suicide. It is time to reach out to the community to help them become more aware, he said.

Along with the speakers, a variety of topics are covered in morning and afternoon “breakout” sessions. These range from finding employment, marijuana and public health and homelessness to the direction of VA health care and benefits.

“The conference is geared toward consumers rather than professionals,” DeWitt said.  

From past evaluations, participants have indicated they saw something in one of these sessions that they need to know more about or are personally affected by, he said.

The conference is hosted by Tri-County Mental Health Services with support from the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area, Bank of America and UMF, he said.

Volunteers from a number of agencies plan the day, with DeWitt, a veteran and VISTA volunteer, leading the outreach and conference planning.

For more information or to register, contact DeWitt at 207-783-4663 ext. 228, email jdewitt@tcmhs.org or visit www.tcmhs.org and click on news/events.

abryant@sunmediagroup.net

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