News

Joint Statement on Afghanistan

As events rapidly unfold in Afghanistan, the news may be distressing to many service members, veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors.

You are not alone.

The undersigned organizations care for, represent, and support you. They’re standing by to help.

Act. Get help, or give help. Reach out to teammates and fellow military- or veteran-connected family members and friends. Check in on them.

Volunteer. Contribute your time and resources to Afghan interpreters and refugees, or organizations that provide mental health services or other programs and services for the military and veteran community.

We’re all in this together.

If you are a veteran, military member, family service member, including National Guard and Reserves, caregiver or survivor, immediate help is available through the Veterans Crisis Line and Military Crisis Line by calling 1-800-273-8255 and pressing 1 or by texting 838255.

Signed:

AARP
American Red Cross
America’s Warrior Partnership
The Armed Forces Retiree Association
Armed Services YMCA
Blue Star Families
Beth Conlin
Bunker Labs
Code of Support Foundation
Cohen Veterans Network
Combined Arms
Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services
Elizabeth Dole Foundation
Exceptional Families of the Military
Freedom Learning Group
Sarah L. Friedman, Ph.D.
Headstrong
The Independence Fund
Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University
IAVA
Military Child Education Coalition
Military Family Advisory Network
Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University
Military Spouse Advocacy Network
Military Spouse JD Network
The Mission Continues
Modern Military Association of America
Nation’s Finest
National Math & Science Initiative
Partners in PROMISE
PENFED Foundation
PsychArmor Institute
Psych Hub
RallyPoint
Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers (Operation Family Caregiver)
Saralyn Mark, MD
Schultz Family Foundation
Sea Service Family, Foundation
Secure Families Initiative
Semper Fi & America’s Fund
The Society for Military Psychology
Student Veterans of America
Team RWB
The Retired Enlisted Association
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors
Travis Manion Foundation
TriWest Community Partners
United Through Reading
Vets’ Community Connections
VetsFirst United Spinal Association
Veterans Education Success
Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, Inc.
wear blue: run to remember

View Blue Star Families’ website for the most up-to-date information and resources.

Early bird registration now open for Battlemind to Home Summit

Registration is now open for the 12th annual Battlemind to Home Summit, which will bring together experts in mental health, law, community services and faith to strategize about how they can use their professional skills to work with all military-connected individuals — including active service members, veterans and their families — to better transition from the battlefront to the home front.

The event will be held virtually on Oct. 26, with preconference sessions on Oct. 25. Participants who register by Aug. 31 will receive the early bird rate of $40 per person for the conference and $20 per person for a preconference session; starting Sept. 1, fees will be $45 and $25, respectively.

Nearly 400,000 veterans, 24,000 active duty and reserve members and nearly 160,000 people in their immediate families currently live in Indiana. The Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University hosts the Battlemind summit specifically for Indiana professionals who work with military-connected populations. Presentations focus on ideas and tactics that professionals can employ to assist their clients with reintegration into civilian life and many other unique challenges that military service can introduce to military members and their families’ lives.

The term “battlemind” was initially used by military to talk about the inner strength needed to face adversity, fear and hardship during combat. The application of the term has broadened to include psychological resiliency both during and after deployment.

Hope and Optimism

The theme of this year’s conference is “Deploying Hope and Optimism in a Changing World,” with the content tailored to that task, says Kathy Broniarczyk, director of outreach and operations at MFRI.

“In the past year alone, world events have continued to showcase the need for a support system geared toward military members and families navigating the path between service and civilian life,” Broniarczyk says.

While the White House has committed to a presidential pledge of withdrawing all combat troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, troops are being sent to new hotspots around the world. Stateside deployments have increased dramatically as well; in 2020, the National Guard was deployed for 11 million person days — more than at any other time since World War II — largely for necessary functions in the United States’ COVID-19 response.

Faith-based track

This year, for the first time, Battlemind to Home will include a faith-based interest track for those community leaders who interact with military families in their religious institutions.

“This addition is part of an ongoing effort to meet military families where they are by providing outreach in the places most relevant to them,” Broniarczyk says.

The 2021 conference will feature two keynote speakers: Mary Tobin, longtime advocate for service members and Army veteran currently serving as the Biden administration’s AmeriCorps senior advisor for the Wounded Warrior, Veteran, and Military Family Initiative, and Dr. Harold Koenig, a psychiatrist bridging the gap between faith and medicine who founded and directs Duke University’s Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health.

Preconference sessions

Three preconference sessions targeted at a specific career fields will allow professionals to delve into specific topics more thoroughly:

  1. Search for Meaning: Addressing Moral and Spiritual Injury Related to Trauma for behavioral health & faith-based professions
  2. Suicide Prevention: Coming Out of Quarantine Ready for Action for community members and beginning health care providers
  3. An Overview of VA and Military Benefits for Elder Law Attorneys and VA Accredited Representatives for those in the legal profession

Conference platform

Battlemind to Home 2021 will be hosted on the Whova conference platform as it was in 2020, due to the overwhelmingly positive response from last year’s attendees, says Elizabeth Klumpe, special events and donor relations specialist at MFRI.

“In 2020, attendees engaged with dozens of community topics, with a total of nearly 1,000 messages sent between participants in both the conference forum and privately within networking cohorts,” Klumpe says. This virtual format facilitated a great deal of communication between attendees and appears to have increased connectivity between professional networks throughout the state comparable to an in-person event, she adds.

Past summits have taken place in Indianapolis and on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus and have attracted hundreds of attendees and participants from more than 100 organizations in Indiana and nearby states.

Collaborators and partners

MFRI organizes the summit each year in collaboration with the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, the Indiana National Guard, the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the Indiana State Bar Association and the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs.

Corporate sponsorships help to fund scholarships for attendees while keeping summit attendance costs low with additional assistance from collaborators’ in-kind contributions. Sponsors will be recognized in event materials and will be given online exhibitor space via the Whova conference platform. Interested sponsors may contact Broniarczyk at kbroniar@purdue.edu.

Anyone interested in a scholarship to the Battlemind to Home Summit may complete an application here.

More information about the summit is available online, on the MFRI Facebook page or on Twitter. Join in the conversation by using the hashtag #battlemindIN.

MFRI’s welcomes women student veterans for 2021 Focus Forward Fellowship

Seventeen women students from across the United States will begin a two-week virtual residency on Sunday (July 25) as part of the Military Family Research Institute’s Focus Forward Fellowship.

The annual mentoring program helps women student veterans and current service members hone their leadership skills and career goals while they build a community of support. Fellows are competitively selected from across the country and attend at no cost, thanks to scholarships made possible by MFRI funders.

For the 2021 Focus Forward Fellowship, MFRI received applications from 75 eligible candidates. After external and internal review, Fellowship organizers extended offers to the top applicants.

The 17 women participating this year hail from 14 states and eight colleges and universities. The cohort represents an array of academic disciplines and five branches of service: Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and the Coast Guard.

Alison Seiler, education and employment outreach associate at MFRI, is spearheading the Fellowship’s daily programming. She says that it’s the seventh year for the Fellowship and the second year for all-virtual programming.

“Even in a virtual world, we are striving to create an environment where these women are able to craft a supportive community with one another,” she says. “We have designed the program so that the relationships initiated here go beyond the virtual summer residency and into the academic year through their online network.”

Throughout the two weeks of programming, the Fellows will meet with a diverse host of mentors via video conferencing.

Returning mentors and seasoned professionals Betty Moseley Brown (chief of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Experience Office), Angela Crossin (attorney and partner at Crossin Law Offices and president of the Business Women United Network) and Jennifer McNelly (chief executive officer of the American Society of Safety Professionals) will coach Fellows in identifying their strengths and how to maximize them, and will also outline strategies and resources to increase their connections and successes on their campuses.

Guest speakers from within MFRI will help Fellows discover their personality styles and hone their skills for problem solving and and fostering academic and career success.

Statistically, women student veterans are older and have more family and job responsibilities than traditional students, Seiler says. They also have unique histories, such as combat experiences or frequent changes in duty station, which can often make them feel isolated on a college campus. The Focus Forward Fellowship help builds a support system of students experiencing similar challenges, she adds.

Once the two-week residency ends, the cohort will participate in an online private Facebook community throughout the 2021-2022 academic year. MFRI staff will answer questions and monitor the group’s progress until next spring.

“I am excited for each and every one of them to take the skills they’ve learned from the Fellowship and apply them professionally, academically and socially,” Seiler says.

Read more about the Focus Forward Fellowship, here, and follow the social media conversation on Facebook and Twitter; look for the hashtag #FWDFellows.

Woodruff Foundation funds expansion of rural program in Indiana

The Military Family Research Institute has received a grant from the Bob Woodruff Foundation to help reduce food insecurity for 500 veterans in rural Indiana. MFRI is one of 44 organizations that were chosen this spring by the foundation in an investment of more than $4.6 million for programs and services targeted at veterans, caregivers and military families impacted by COVID-19.

Researchers estimate that since the COVID-19 pandemic began, up to 40% of veterans and military families have experienced food insecurity. The Woodruff grant will target low-resource veterans and their families in eight rural counties in Indiana through support of MFRI’s Reaching Rural Veterans (RRV) program. A collaboration between MFRI, food pantries and faith-based communities, RRV honors former military members for their service while connecting them to programs and benefits through resource fairs and one-on-one education.

About the Bob Woodruff Foundation: BWF leverages its expertise and collaborative network to find, fund and shape innovative programs that help impacted veterans, service members and their families thrive. As a nonpartisan leader in the military-veteran community, the foundation brings transparency and credibility to its partners and complements their efforts. Learn more at https://bobwoodrufffoundation.org/.

New Illinois program seeks to serve low-income, homeless and low-resource rural veterans

The Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University is collaborating with University of Illinois Extension and select Illinois food pantries and faith-based communities on Reaching Rural Veterans (RRV), a Purdue-based program that connects low-income, homeless and low-resource rural veterans with affordable housing, health care and other resources.

With support from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, RRV expanded this spring into Effingham, Fulton, Perry, Saline and Union counties in Illinois. Each food pantry is receiving grants, education and assistance to help them mobilize local resources for military and veteran families.

Roughly one-third of all veterans live in rural areas and are often less likely to have access to needed services than those in urban areas. Reaching Rural Veterans events provide opportunities to thank veterans for their service while also helping them find needed resources close to home, said Rena Sterrett, senior program administration specialist with MFRI.

To identify counties that could most benefit from the initiative, Sterrett and her colleagues at MFRI collaborated with representatives of Illinois Extension. After choosing five rural counties with relatively high numbers of veterans, Extension staff also located potential partner food pantries.

“Illinois Extension was a valuable partner in helping target counties that could most benefit from the program because of their intimate knowledge of the state,” Sterrett said.

As part of the grant process, MFRI representatives are educating food pantry staff and volunteers about the strengths and struggles of military and veteran families and helping them recruit military-connected organizations to participate in pantry events. Ultimately, Sterrett said, she hopes to reach 50 veterans in each of the participating pantries — a goal that will require coordination among area partners.

“Addressing a community’s needs for food, shelter and employment is an important step in establishing stronger bonds between local organizations and the military and veteran populations,” Sterrett said.

About Purdue University
Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 5 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at https://purdue.edu/.

About the Military Family Research Institute
Using data-driven solutions to real-world issues, MFRI works closely with collaborators to improve the lives of veterans and military families.

About University of Illinois Extension
The flagship outreach effort of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois Extension offers educational programs to residents of all of Illinois’ 102 counties and beyond. Extension provides practical education you can trust to help people, businesses and communities solve problems, develop skills, and build a better future.

Writer: Kristen Cavallo
Media contact: Angela Roberts, akroberts@purdue.edu
Source: Rena Sterrett, rsterret@purdue.edu 

HHS initiative to help families cope with pandemic receives two engagement awards

A College of Health and Human Sciences initiative designed to support families through the COVID-19 pandemic has received two engagement awards from Purdue University.

Families Tackling Tough Times Together has received an HHS Faculty Engagement Award for excellence in innovation and demonstrated impact in alignment with the college’s strategic engagement goals. Additionally, the program has received a University Corps of Engagement Award for outstanding partnership and achievement among a team of faculty, staff, students and/or community stakeholders.

The program, which launched in mid-April 2020 at the height of shutdowns across the United States and around the world, contains nine modules of evidence-informed activities, along with two video series, all designed to strengthen family resilience.

More than 70 scientists, staff members and students worked together to create Families Together, under the leadership of Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, a distinguished professor of human development and family studies and director of the Center for Families and the Military Family Research Institute.

While data analysis for Families Together is ongoing, early results have shown a positive impact. Among the metrics in a paper published last November in the International Journal of Military, Veteran, and Family Health: By the end of its first cycle last spring, the Families Together Facebook group had reached more than 1,300 families from 25 different countries. On average during that time, about 400 group participants were active each week.

Reaching Rural Veterans helps connect services to people in need

“I was looking for hope and community and I found both, along with some needed services right here.”
RRV participant

Roughly one-third of all veterans live in rural areas and are often less likely to have access to needed services than those in urban areas. Organizations such as Purdue’s Military Family Research Institute seek to meet rural veterans where they are with the care they need. 

In collaboration with food pantries and faith-based communities, MFRI’s Reaching Rural Veterans (RRV) connects former service members with needed services and benefits through resource fairs and one-on-one education at food pantries in rural areas. Originally piloted in Indiana and Kentucky, RRV has expanded this year to Illinois, thanks to funding from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Partnering with faith-based communities and Illinois Extension

RRV in Illinois is a partnership between MFRI, University of Illinois Extension, food pantries, and faith communities. Its primary objective is to provide food, medical and behavioral health support, education and resources, including VA benefits, to low-income, homeless and low-resource veterans located in rural areas, says Rena Sterrett, senior community outreach specialist with MFRI.

“Veterans who live in rural areas can have difficulty accessing the resources they need,” she says. “Reaching Rural Veterans events make accessing these resources much easier by having them all in the same place at the same time.”

The project also seeks to:

  • educate local faith communities, food pantry staff and other community organizations about veteran families;
  • engage local faith communities and others in providing support and assistance to military-connected families; and
  • educate low-income, homeless and low-resource veteran families about nutrition and health.

Identifying counties of greatest need

Originally planned for 2020, the launch of RRV in Illinois was put on hold for a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When MFRI was ready to move forward, Sterrett connected with the University of Illinois Extension, which helped her identify five rural Illinois counties to target: Fulton and Effingham counties in central Illinois, and Union, Perry and Saline counties in southern Illinois.

“We had five counties that were chosen based on several categories, one how rural they were – which is determined by qualities such as location to urban areas and population,” Sterrett says. “We wanted them to be as rural as possible, with a fairly high percentage of veterans.”

Making it easy, efficient and safe for veterans

Illinois Extension staff also helped to locate food pantries in the targeted counties. Then MFRI staff got to work, identifying services available to veterans and examining county demographics through the institute’s Measuring Communities program. They shared this information with food pantry staff and volunteers during orientation sessions that also included cultural competency training on military culture.

The program debuted in Illinois in March 2021 and will take place at walk-in and drive-up food pantries for nine months in 2021. In addition to providing education, materials and resources one-on-one to clientele, participating pantries will also bring together multiple veteran-oriented services through resource fairs on a regular basis.

The idea is to make it easy, efficient and safe for veterans to obtain benefits and services and build support, Sterrett says: “Right now, our goal is to reach 50 veterans in each pantry over the span of nine months of programs.”

To evaluate the effectiveness of the program, MFRI is teaming up with Heather Eicher-Miller, associate professor in Purdue’s Department of Nutrition Science, who specializes in nutrition and food insecurity. She and a PhD student have designed a survey for veterans that they can complete at the beginning and at three months into their participation in the program.

Building upon a successful pilot program

Eicher-Miller also was part of the Reaching Rural Veterans pilot, which was created after extensive reviews of the academic literature and existing programs targeted at homeless and low-resource veteran families in rural areas.

The pilot took place with ten food pantries selected in Indiana and Kentucky based on rurality, need, community partnerships and budget. Participating pantries received grants to support outreach and engagement activities directed toward veterans living in their service areas, and were provided with training, materials and resources to reach out to rural veterans.

Sterrett notes that at regular intervals, food pantries held special outreach events where services directed toward veterans living in the area were provided. “The goal was to bring together multiple resources to make it easy, efficient and nonthreatening for veterans to obtain services and build support with other veterans and the community,” she says.

Evaluations of the pilot, whose results were published in the Journal of Public Health, showed an improvement in food pantry staff’s knowledge of veterans’ needs, as well as increased participation by veterans.

Along with these quantitative measures are also dozens of stories about veterans whose lives were changed by Reaching Rural Veterans, through access to affordable housing, Veterans Health Administration benefits and other resources in their own communities. As one pilot participant commented, “I was looking for hope and community and I found both, along with some needed services right here.”

Writer: Kristen Cavallo
Source: Rena Sterrett (rsterret@purdue.edu)
Photo: Renee Trappe, courtesy of the Du Quoin Call

MFRI celebrates the Month of the Military Child

Every April MFRI celebrates the Month of the Military Child, showing appreciation for approximately 2 million military children who serve alongside their parents.

Military children play an important role in the armed forces community. That’s because their parent’s service requires of them daily sacrifices and can create unique challenges when compared to their civilian peers.

Ways to honor military children

Celebrate Military Kids! April is the Month of the Military Child

Sponsored by the Department of Defense Military Community and Family Policy, the Month of the Military Child is a time for communities to honor these children. It’s a time to say, “Thank you for your service.”

There are many things you can do to say thank you. You can celebrate Purple Up Day by wearing purple on April 16th. You can buy military-friendly books for your local library. Your business can offer discounts to military families. Consider downloading and sharing MFRI’s How to Help series. Each issue provides evidence-based guidance on how a particular community or profession can help military families, including children.

The DOD encourages communities to plan special events in April to honor military children. “These efforts and special events will stress the importance of providing children with quality services and support to help them succeed in the mobile military lifestyle,” the Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) writes. Learn more on the DODEA’s website.

View the Military Child Education Coalition Month of the Military Child tool kit for additional ideas on how to celebrate military children this month.

View Military OneSource resources, including links to virtual celebrations and an appreciation kit just for military children.

MFRI graphic design internship opportunity

The Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University, part of the College of Health and Human Sciences, pairs research with outreach to help improve the quality of life for service members, veterans and their families. MFRI is seeking a graphic design intern to help advance the institute’s mission and cultivate its reputation regionally and nationwide.

This position may be structured either as paid student work for approximately 10 hours a week, or as an internship with course credit. The position may begin either summer or fall 2021, depending on candidate availability.

Under the direction of the external relations manager, the graphic design intern will:

  • Assist with the design of social media graphics, fliers, fact sheets, invitations, and other strategic communications and marketing materials
  • Assist with the planning and scheduling of social media posts
  • Adhere to Purdue and MFRI brand guidelines
  • Complete projects according to deadline

Requirements

  • Enrolled in a two- or four-year college program in visual communication design, graphic design or related area
  • Knowledge of layout and design, typography, composition and color
  • Detail oriented
  • Proficiency with Microsoft Office
  • Experience with Adobe Creative Suite (InDesign, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator)

Application process

  • To apply, please submit a resume and statement of interest along with three samples of your work (or a link to an online portfolio) to Angela Roberts, external relations manager, at akroberts@purdue.edu.

MFRI stands with the AAPI community

We, the undersigned organizations committed to supporting service members, veterans, caregivers, survivors, and their families, write to express our strong condemnation of the recent wave of violence against individuals of Asian descent in our country, and to express our solidarity with Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have strong representation among our veterans and military families. They are patriots who have strengthened the fabric of our nation, they have fought and won our wars, they have borne the burden of battle and cared for those who have borne that burden.

We affirm that violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is violence against our entire community, and such activity – like all hate-based activity – is fundamentally wrong in every way, anti-American, and unpatriotic. We urge all members of the military and veteran family community, and all Americans who feel they may be targeted by discrimination, to seek help through their military chain of command, our organizations, or through law enforcement agencies in your area.

Sincerely,

Amazon
Armed Services YMCA
Blue Star Families
Bunker Labs
CareLinx
Code of Support Foundation
Cohen Veterans Network
Combined Arms
Easterseals
Easterseals DC VA MD
Elizabeth Dole Foundation
Dixon Center for Military and Veteran Services
Freedom Learning Group
Institute for Veterans and Military Families
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
Modern Military Association of America
Military Spouse Chamber of Commerce
Military Child Education Coalition
Military Family Advisory Network
Military Family Research Institute
Military Officers Association of America
Military Women’s Memorial
National Math and Science Initiative
Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society
Operation Gratitude
Partners in PROMISE
PenFed Foundation
PsychArmor Institute
Psych Hub
United Through Reading
USAA
RallyPoint
Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers
Secure Families Initiative
Student Veterans of America
Team RWB
The Mission Continues
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors
Travis Manion Foundation
Veterans Education Success
Vets’ Community Connections
Wear Blue: Run to Remember

The White Oak Collaborative is a cross-sector coalition of organizations committed to supporting service members, veterans, caregivers, survivors, and their families. For more information please contact whiteoakcollaborative@gmail.com.