On Veterans Day, we say thank you to the many men and women (and their families) who serve our country. Our appreciation should continue for the other 364 days of the year and thanks to a one-year, $2.4 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University will continue its mission to improve the lives of members of the military, veterans and their families.
Through counseling, education and employment initiatives and community grants, MFRI provides numerous ways for military members and their families to have access to the assistance they need.
"MFRI plays a critical role regionally and nationally," said Purdue University President Mitch Daniels. "Lilly Endowment's generosity comes at a time when continuing this institute's work has never been more important."
More than 2 million military service members have been deployed since Sept. 11, 2001, and more than 22.7 million veterans are now living in the United States as civilians. The number of military family members is exponentially larger, and these individuals also serve in many ways, including enduring long separations and providing care and support for their loved ones.
"Millions of military and veteran families struggle with challenges related to combat deployments they completed during their military service," said MFRI director Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth. "For example, traumatic brain injury, posttraumatic stress disorder and the unique challenges faced by female service members continue to impact families long after military deployments. We must guard against societal 'war fatigue' and continue to address these issues as well as many others that directly affect military and veteran families."
MFRI's signature programs include:
* Star Behavioral Health Providers, a collaboration among the Indiana National Guard, Center for Deployment Psychology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration and the National Guard Bureau's Psychological Health Program. SBHP is a training, referral and dissemination program that helps service members and those who care about them locate trained civilian behavioral health professionals who better understand challenges associated with military service. The program began in Indiana but is being replicated in Michigan and Georgia, with more states coming on board soon.
* "How to Help Military and Veteran Families," a series of publications that offer valuable information to various audiences to help them assist and support members of the military, veterans and their families. The series is the result of a joint effort between the U.S. departments of Defense and Agriculture, in collaboration with the MFRI and the National Military Family Association.
* Education and employment initiatives that have: awarded more than $2.4 million in grants to Indiana higher education institutions and student veterans' organizations; provided outreach to support programs that help veterans succeed on campuses; worked to change policies that limit access to credit for military training; and partnered with employers and veteran job seekers to close gaps between them.
* Research studies such as "Family Journeys" and "Children and Multiple Deployments," which are examining the effects of deployment and military service on families.
* Grants of up to $2,500 to community organizations to build partnerships with military units that will strengthen support for military families.
"MFRI's goal is to make Indiana and the nation a better place for military and veteran families," said MacDermid Wadsworth, who in addition to directing MFRI, leads the Center for Families and is a professor of human development and family studies at Purdue. "We want everyone who comes into contact with military families, whether in the military or in civilian communities, to be motivated and well-prepared to be helpful to these families who have given so much to our country."
An MFRI priority is to conduct research that can inform military programs, practices and policies related to families. Scientific journal articles, research texts and other publications produced by MFRI have addressed gaps in services for children, families, and student veterans.
National leaders are listening. First Lady Michelle Obama and vice presidential spouse Jill Biden have issued a call to action to support military families, and MFRI leaders have been invited multiple times to the White House to offer guidance. MacDermid Wadsworth has been called to testify before Congress as a subject-matter expert. She also is a fellow of the National Council on Family Relations, and she previously served on the Defense Health Board's Psychological Health External Advisory Committee and the Institute of Medicine's Committee on Returning Veterans. In 2012, MacDermid Wadsworth was awarded Purdue's Morrill Award, given to faculty members whose careers have demonstrated excellence in teaching, research and engagement.