Indiana community mourns the passing of beloved former MFRI assistant director

Military Family Research Institute staff, students and the wider Indiana community are mourning the death of former Assistant Director and Air Force veteran Martina Sternberg, Ph.D., who died Sept. 2 in Navarre, Florida.

The 53-year-old veteran dedicated her career to military-connected families, and her passion for making people’s lives better is a theme that will live on at MFRI. She was an integral part of building Battlemind to Home Summit into the collaborative success it is today.

“Martina will always be remembered as person with a huge heart and an exuberant spirit,” said Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, director of MFRI. “She was an enormous part of building MFRI’s work, and above all was a wonderful and supportive coworker and friend.”

Community mobilizer, tireless advocate

Martina was an active member of her community, participating in local programs to assist those in need. She started a Trauma Intervention Program in Florida and the Grandparents Raising Grandkids Association. With a smile that could brighten the room, her enormous personality and wealth of selflessness will be sorely missed by all.

At MFRI, she led community mobilization efforts, expanding them to include work on behalf of student veterans and rural veterans. Her relentless work with homeless veterans helped thousands via fundraisers, benefits, and Stand Downs, which earned her several prestigious awards, including the Distinguished Hoosier Award presented by the Governor of Indiana, and the Veteran of the Year Award. Martina was a prominent gay rights advocate, and as a result, was invited to the White House when President Obama signed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Bright light, ‘big influence’ and mentor

Phil Turner, MFRI veteran justice outreach specialist, worked with her before being hired at MFRI.

“I remember Martina being an influence in my life and we didn’t even know each other that well,” he said. “In my small hometown in northeastern Indiana, we were struggling to find resources to help our local veterans. Under Martina’s leadership we gained a veteran Stand Down program that still is being used to this day. After joining MFRI, Martina became a mentor. I will always be thankful for her leadership and care for military and veteran families.”

Martina was a bright light in this world and touched many lives by broadcasting her radiance. After her time at MFRI, she moved to Florida where she is survived by her husband Scott Sternberg, daughter Jessica Craig, grandson Gabriel Craig and other beloved family members. She was preceded in death by her mother Dolores Henry, her son Joshua Craig and her brother Martin Preston.

Visitation will be Sept. 9 from 1:30-3:30 p.m. at Harper-Morris Memorial Chapel. Funeral services will be Sept. 10 at 10 a.m. at St. Sylvester’s Catholic Church.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Gabriel’s Trust Fund.

MFRI book highlights post-9/11 lessons learned from supporting military families, veterans

The Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University recently released “A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families,” a new experience-based book that highlights lessons learned from supporting veteran and military families during and after operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Findings in the book reveal that when planning for a military conflict, leaders in Congress, the executive branch, and service organizations should prioritize military and veteran families as a part of defense strategy during conflicts.

The book draws on lessons learned from U.S. policymakers, Congress members, Department of Defense officials, and leaders in sectors such as higher education, behavioral health, corporate America, and more. Key insights focus on how to produce effective and agile support systems for military and veteran families before, during, and after times of war. More than 100 leaders contributed to this valuable resource, providing knowledge they gained working firsthand with military families after 9/11 and distilling lessons learned and recommendations into practical, experience-based chapters.

“During each new conflict, we learn more about how best to support service members,” says Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, Ph.D., director of MFRI. “Our findings indicate that the military is strongest when service members know their families are taken care of and when families have the tools and resources they need to support their service member.”

A road map for supporting veteran and military families

In addition to sharing lessons learned, “A Battle Plan” acts as a road map for supporting veteran and military families, addressing how to:

  • Integrate family support systems into defense strategy.
  • Anticipate issues and challenges that are likely to affect military families.
  • Adopt policies that help, not hinder, military families during times of conflict.
  • Ensure that military families have a voice in the conversation.
  • Identify urgent gaps in support systems.
  • Navigate the rapidly changing world of service organizations.
  • Plan more effectively for medical and caregiving needs.
  • Provide the resources military and veteran families need after military conflicts wind down.

The book was edited by Linda Hughes-Kirchubel, MFRI’s director of external relations, Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, MFRI’s director, and David Riggs, executive director of the Center for Deployment Psychology. To learn more about “A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families,” visit www.mfri.purdue.edu/battleplan.

About Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University

The Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University conducts research on issues that impact military and veteran families and works to shape policies, programs, and practices that promote their well-being. Founded in 2000, MFRI envisions a diverse support community that understands the most pressing needs of military and veteran families. To achieve this, MFRI collaborates to create meaningful solutions for them. The nationally recognized organization is located at Purdue University’s College of Health and Human Sciences, in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

Military-connected women gather to begin Focus Forward Fellowship

The Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University (MFRI) is proud to announce the arrival of the 2018 Focus Forward Fellowship cohort to West Lafayette. The Fellowship is an MFRI program designed to build skills, leadership and a sense of community among women student veterans.

Fellows are competitively selected from across the country and attend this program on scholarship. This year, MFRI received a record number of 250 eligibility forms. After a very competitive selection process, 20 women were selected from 18 different colleges and universities, representing all five branches of service, and diverse areas of academic study.

MFRI Director and Purdue Professor Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth is eager to welcome the 2018 cohort to Purdue’s campus.

“It is with much joy and excitement that we assist these women as they grow in their personal and professional development,” she said. “Women student veterans hold many roles throughout their lives, as they juggle family, school and career responsibilities. The Fellowship will help prepare them for their future roles.”

At Purdue, women will build a community of support as they go through the residential portion of the Fellowship. They will meet with mentors from major corporations, learn about their own strengths and how to maximize them, and identify strategies and resources to increase connections and successes on their own home campuses. In addition, they will gain confidence in their ability to problem solve and develop skills to help foster academic and career success. After returning home, they will participate in an online community throughout the upcoming academic year.

“This Fellowship is a great opportunity to lean-in and share information about transitioning from service member to veteran,” said mentor Betty Moseley Brown, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and the 19th president of the Women Marines Association. “It is great to meet women veterans and collaborate on life’s journey with my sisters.”

To learn more or find out ways you can support the Focus Forward Fellowship, contact Linda Hughes-Kirchubel, MFRI director of external relations, at lhughesk@purdue.edu or 765-494-2962 and follow the social media conversation at #FWDFellows.

MFRI report reveals details about lives of service members, veterans and their families

The Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University and the Purdue Center for Regional Development unveiled a ground-breaking report, “Measuring Our Communities: The State of Veteran and Military Families in the United States” on May 14.

The report unveils rich and specific data on the state of military-connected individuals across the country, focusing on topics such as employment, education, mental health and legal needs.

The event also highlighted an exceptional online data tool created by MFRI and the Purdue Center for Regional Development (PCRD) called Measuring Communities. The tool allows service providers and professionals nationwide to make data-driven decisions when it comes to serving the unique needs of service members, veterans and their families by providing localized data.

The Measuring Communities tool, already used by more than 60 organizations, enables real-time data analysis across a range of issues offering rich and nuanced data points about military-connected individuals in the communities in which they live.

Those who wish to utilize the tool can register for access by visiting, measuringcommunities.org.

Visualizing data and Measuring Communities

Measuring Communities is a social indicators initiative designed to help shape community efforts to support military and veteran families. This web-based tool assembles, makes available and visually represents data about the state of these families, which communities can use to identify and address gaps in services to better serve them. MFRI created this landmark initiative in partnership with the Purdue Center for Regional Development.

MFRI Excellence in Research on Military and Veteran Families Award recipient announced

Research exploring the World War II GI Bill, marriage and socioeconomic outcomes earned the 2016 Military Family Research Institute’s annual award for Excellence in Research on Military and Veteran Families.

Sixteen distinguished reviewers examined all the research on military families published in 2015, over 150 articles. Multiple rounds of review yielded the winning article: “War and marriage: Assortative mating and the World War II GI Bill,” by Matthew F. Larsen, T. J. McCarthy, Jeremy G. Moulton, Marianne E. Page and Ankur J. Patel. The authors’ research, detailed in the publication, used quantitative research methods to explore linkages among the World War II GI Bill, marriage and generational impacts on socioeconomic status.

“Our goal at MFRI is to increase the impact of research, and this award helps to strengthen connections between researchers, policy makers and practitioners,” said Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, director of MFRI. “We are thrilled to recognize and celebrate the excellent work of these outstanding scholars.”

The article appeared in the October 2015 issue of Demography, a peer-reviewed journal that presents the work of scholars across a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, biology, economics, geography, history, psychology, public health, sociology and statistics.

The award was presented on Nov. 16, at a panel discussion based on MFRI’s forthcoming book, A Battle Plan for Supporting Military and Veteran Families. The event was hosted by the Association of the U.S. Army and held at its headquarters in Arlington, Va.

MFRI established the award to recognize the year’s best research on military-connected families. It is given annually to the authors of research published in the last year that combines exceptional rigor with important insights about military and veteran families. Nominations for this award are neither solicited nor accepted. Instead, a panel reviews all published research to determine the winner of the award.

About the authors of “War and marriage: Assortative mating and the World War II GI Bill”:

Matthew F. Larsen
Department of Economics, Lafayette College, Easton, PA.
T. J. McCarthy
Sol Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Jeremy G. Moulton
Department of Public Policy, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC.
Marianne E. Page
Department of Economics, University of California Davis, Davis, CA.
Ankur J. Patel
U.S. Department of the Treasury, Washington, DC.

MFRI is also pleased to announce two other articles that received top honors:

If you would like to revisit the 2016 evening’s discussion, please view the archived version of this event.

2015 Recipient

Lundquist, J., & Xu, Z. (2014). Reinstitutionalizing families: Life course policy and marriage in the militaryJournal of Marriage and Family 76(5), 1063-1081.

Jennifer Lundquist, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Zhun Xu, Howard University, argue that structural conditions of modern military service – including deployment, frequent moves and overarching characteristics of military employment – shape the relationships between spouses and service members. Through the article, the authors bring together life course literatures on turning points, the welfare state, and linked lives to show how military policies are part of an overarching institutional culture that directly and indirectly promotes marriage.

2015 Finalists

Stand Down provides thanks, support for veterans

The Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University is pleased to announce the awarding of 11 community mobilization grants to organizations and family support groups across Indiana.

Organizations will use the grants to target issues such as homelessness, financial readiness and career support.

“Our goal is that these grants will help improve the quality of life and community supports for service members, veterans and their families,” said Martina Sternberg, director of community outreach at MFRI. “Applicants submitted impressive, quality proposals, which judges then scored. Our recipients received up to $2,500 each, but the amount varied.”

In 2015, MFRI awarded 25 grants ranging from $500-$2,500. These funds served more than 2,500 military-affiliated families in Indiana. Some of the proposals funded:

  • programming about financial literacy;
  • leadership training;
  • employment readiness; and
  • homeless and at-risk families.

Below is the award list of organizations and family support groups across Indiana.