THE BATTLE FOR OUR
Taking care of our troops is a moral obligation. It’s also a matter of national security. If we want men and women to serve, they must know their families are taken care of while they are deployed. And when they return, they must have assurance that America will do its share.
The Military Family Research Institute at Purdue is on the front lines in the effort to keep these promises. The alternative also has economic costs. When veterans struggle to regain a foothold in civilian life, unemployment goes up. Marriages dissolve. Health-care costs soar. So does homelessness and suicide.
Our wars are now fought largely by citizen soldiers, reservists and National Guard troops. They and their families lack the type of support community upon which career service members draw. The challenges faced by military families become tougher than ever.
SHELLEY MACDERMID WADSWORTH directs the Military Family Research Institute and the Center for Families. She is a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, and serves as associate dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences.
The Military and Family Research Institute at Purdue has been on the front lines for more than 10 years, with 20 professionals, 20 student employees and faculty partners across campus. The institute:
- SUPPORTS THE MILITARY INFRASTRUCTURE THAT SUPPORTS FAMILIES
- ENGAGES CIVILIAN COMMUNITIES TO HELP
- RESEARCHES PROBLEMS AND IDENTIFY SOLUTIONS THAT WORK
- INFLUENCES POLICIES, PROGRAMS AND PRACTICES
MFRI DIRECTOR SHELLEY MACDERMID WADSWORTH
Homecoming requires families to develop a “new normal.” During deployment, the spouse at home has to step up to make the decisions, often without clearly knowing what the other spouse would have wanted. At homecoming, roles and responsibilities need to be renegotiated. And some spouses report that the service member recently returned from duty is physically present but emotionally not quite home yet.
PASSPORT TOWARD SUCCESS helps veterans and families reconnect after deployment. The half-day clinics have become a national model.
Hundreds of children have participated in Passport's four-hour clinics statewide to learn how to communicate, to solve problems and share their feelings in words and art. What made you sad? "You didn’t get to watch me learn to swim." What made you proud? "I learned to tie my shoes." The Indiana National Guard and Lilly Endowment provide the funding.
Operation L.E.A.D., two camps for military children, builds self-confidence, communication skills and a support group of friends facing the same challenges.
MFRI is working to encourage mental-health care providers to gain specialized expertise to help veterans’ special needs. Next: An online database of these providers.
The institute provides seed money to agencies, colleges and universities to mobilize them to launch initiatives. The new Purdue Interfaith Engagement Initiative is focusing on veterans as part of a national effort.
MRFI plays matchmaker, laying groundwork to get veterans college credit for their military training. Indiana Commission for Higher Education likes the idea. A database will establish course equivalencies for all public institutions in Indiana.
MFRI IS IN THE NEWS:
Director Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth was among those present at the White House in April when First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, launched President Obama's Interfaith and Community Service Challenge, a national initiative calling on all sectors of society to support and honor America's service members and their families.
FUNDING AND PARTNERS
- Lilly Endowment Inc.
- U.S. Department of Defense
- Planning team for the White House's Joining Forces initiative
- Center for the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, part of the Department of Health and Human Services
- Department of Defense Task Force on Mental Health
- Indiana National Guard
- Indiana Family and Social Service Organization
- The National Institutes of Health
- The Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis
- The Department of Labor and Department of Veterans Affairs
- Researchers and departments across the Purdue campus