John Tolley, October 10, 2016

Military service is a noble, but grueling, endeavor. From the battlefield to the base to back home, service members and their families bear the burden of a unique set of stresses. Those in uniform face life-threatening situations and relentless pressure. Their loved ones face the absence of a parent or partner. At home, as life is reshuffled, dynamics change and duties are reassigned. When families are reunited, the joy they feel can be quickly overshadowed by an arduous period of readjustment.

Enter Family Battle Buddies, a new program from the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington that uses a host of games and activities to boost communicative and cooperative skills in families with a deploying or returning service member.

"The purpose of Family Battle Buddies is to come here and meet other veterans, create memories with your family and hopefully fill up that resiliency toolbox a little bit with things you can do at home," said Jordan McIntire speaking with Inside IU Bloomington.

McIntire is the assistant director of military and family programming at Bradford Woods, a unique IU facility that plays host to and operates Family Battle Buddies in partnership with the university and the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs. Through arts exercises, rope courses, and equine activities, families bond and build the skills that will help them weather life at home and apart.

The program, offered free to all military families with children between 4 and 20, is the brainchild of five IUSPH faculty members. Their research found that the time military families were allowing for readjustment to home life was lacking. That can lead to things like disengagement and wounded pride, said Shay Dawson, one of the IUSPH faculty members involved in creating Family Battle Buddies.

?Some families are three years past reintegration and they are still dealing with these issues. So we help build that family resiliency, work on improving communications and conflict resolution, and allow for everyone in the family to be a part of the process."

Only in its first official year, the program has proved a great success. According to McIntire, plans are to expand Family Battle Buddies? offerings to reach even more families. She also noted that annual reunions aimed at strengthening camaraderie and support networks among participating families are in the works as well.