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ARLINGTON, Va. — This year’s 15th International Civilian and Military Combat Stress Conference will focus on the effect of combat stress on families as well as warfighters.

The annual event will be held May 4-10 at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and was founded by psychologist Bart Billings, a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel.

To emphasize this year’s family theme, all sessions on Saturday and Sunday will be free to family members of participants who have paid to attend the conference, Billings said.

Family members also will be invited to attend, for free, Saturday’s dinner and a variety show.

The conference, subtitled “Supporting Our War Fighters & Their Families, Terrorism, Combat Stress, Operation Iraqi Freedom Issues, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” will include sessions on military family violence, readjustment following deployment, combat stress, help for returning troops and their families, and lessons learned about the mental health impact of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Vice Adm. Donald Arthur, surgeon general of the Navy, is scheduled to deliver the conference’s opening remarks.

Billings said he founded the conference after realizing during the Gulf War that the military needed to do a better job preparing servicemembers and their families for the stress of deployment.

The event is not funded by the Department of Defense but is being organized with support from Psycho-Legal Associates Inc., a California-based continuing education company for mental health and legal professionals.

Jaime Cavazos, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Medical Command, while the Army does not official sponsor the event, the service has at times funded participants and speakers.

It is “a long-running and important supplement to the other efforts the Army has in combat and operational stress control,” he said.

For more information on the 15th Annual International Civilian & Military Combat Stress Conference, go to

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