Reaching Rural Veterans Program Created Via Community Collaborations

For this weeks Friday Field Notes we will hear from two women who work with the Reaching Rural Veterans program with the Military Families Research Institute at Purdue University about a collaboration between  land grant universities, rural faith communities, and faith-based food pantries to provide food, benefits, services, support and education to low income, homeless and at-risk veterans and their families living in rural areas.

Friday Field Notes

One of the biggest challenges that the Veterans Administration (VA) faces when it comes to providing services to veterans is to reach them where they live. In 2013, the Veterans Health Administration announced a new strategic plan that focused on ensuring that veterans have convenient access to tailored information and services, regardless of their location or circumstances. This kind of strategy has been productively used for many health- and poverty-related initiatives.pic for FFN purdue

Many organizations such as universities and the Department of Labor have created “one stop” offices to make it easier for veterans to meet requirements for education or employment (U.S. Department of Labor, 2011). Because rural veterans are a low-density population, any program aimed at serving them needed to leverage existing community resources in order to minimize expense, assist in sustaining and strengthening existing community programs, and infuse into local communities awareness of, and support for, veterans.

pic for FFN purdue 3Mindful of these principles, the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) partnered with the VA Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the VA Office of Rural Health and the Roudebush VA Medical Center to create Reaching Rural Veterans (RRV). The result: a collaboration between land grant universities, rural faith communities, and faith-based food pantries to provide food, benefits, services, support and education to low income, homeless and at-risk veterans and their families living in rural areas.

The pilot program launched after 10 faith-based pantries located in Indiana and Kentucky were selected through a competitive application process. Each pantry received a grant of approximately $5,000 as well as training, materials and resources to use to reach out to veterans in their service area. About once a month, each pantry held an outreach event, bringing together multiple resources for veterans, making it easy, efficient, and nonthreatening for them to obtain benefits and services while building support with other veterans and the community. Through RRV, veterans gained access to behavioral health professionals, county veteran service officers, personal care providers (e.g. haircuts), veteran service organizations and more. VA facilities participated; so did nutrition educators and SNAP-education paraprofessionals, who provided food samples and information on nutrition and healthy choices.

Our initial goal for RRV was to reach an average of 25 veterans per county or a total of 300 veterans. But we far exceeded that. In six months, RRV reached more than 1,100 veterans in two states. And while the pilot project has ended, each of the 10 participating pantries has shared that the RRV events have been so successful that they intend to continue veteran programming.

pic for FFN purdue 4But the real success of RRV is seen best through the eyes of those on the front lines who work daily with veterans in need.

“My office has been able to help a veteran at least once per each of the last three [RRV] events,” said a VSO for Indiana’s Marion County. “I was able to change the life of two veterans by helping them get signed up for VA healthcare and I was able to help a veteran who was at risk for becoming homeless with a considerable increase in his pension. This veteran was a Korean War veteran and he is a Purple Heart recipient. He never received any services or benefits from the VA previously and has significant hearing loss. He now has access to VA benefits and we are helping him get a hearing aid to improve his quality of life.”

To learn more about RRV, visit the MFRI website at

Meet the Authors:

bethjohnsonheadshot for FFNBeth Johnson currently serves as the director of external relations for the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University. There she oversees a variety of projects including public relations, community relations, strategic communication, events and government affairs. Prior to joining MFRI, Johnson held public relations and communications positions with the Marine Corps Marathon, George Mason University and Salsa Labs, Inc. She received her bachelor’s degree in communication from Auburn University and holds her master’s degree in communication from George Mason University. Johnson’s military connections include her husband (former Marine captain and OEF veteran), brother (former Army captain and OIF veteran) and father (former Coast Guard officer).

andrea wellkin for FFNAndrea Wellnitz currently serves at the Project Manager for the Reaching Rural Veterans program with the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University.   Andrea has over eleven years of experience working with diverse audiences on a range of social service, community outreach and educational projects and programs.  These audiences have ranged from at-risk youth in the United States, multi-generational populations around the world, and at-risk Veterans and their families. She received her master’s degree in Social Work from The Ohio State University. 

Nutrition, Exercise and Renal Disease webinar discussion. New publication by Dr. Ken Wilund!

Renal and Cardiovascular Disease Research Laboratory University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Renal and Cardiovascular Disease
Research Laboratory
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

by Robin Allen

What a great webinar in June, Nutrition, Exercise and Renal Disease presented by Dr. Ken Wilund. We had 283 attendees and over 100 comments in the chat pod.  The discussion was lively and much information was shared.  If you missed the webinar, Registered Dietitians can still earn CPEUs by listening to the recording and completing the evaluation located on the Learn Event page  Dr. Wilund and his lab recently published a paper in the Journal of Renal Nutrition, Modified Nutritional Recommendations to Improve Dietary Patterns and Outcomes in Hemodialysis Patients in the Journal of Renal Nutrition. This study was discussed in the webinar is now available at the link above and on the Learn Event page.

The following are some of the key takeaways the participants commented on:

  • The renal diet is difficult to follow, and compliance is poor. Dietitians closely monitor lab values individualize meal plans to provide a well-balanced diet.
  • The key to success is getting the entire clinical team involved. Repetition is important to helping patients stay on their diet especially for sodium (Na+) restriction.  Telling them once is not enough! It takes a team approach constantly to repeat the message, including the doctors, nurses, techs, family members and the bus driver.
  • Sodium restriction is vital to avoid chronic volume overload. The recommendation from this webinar is 1 mg sodium/ 1 kilocalorie as the rule. Once again, it takes the entire medical team to reinforce this rule.
  • Education should focus on sodium restriction. Liberalize the diet restrictions and focus on encouraging non-processed foods. Restrictions of potassium (K+) and phosphorus (P) from non-processed/whole foods should be largely eliminated. Differentiate between organic and inorganic P. Few restrictions should be placed on fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and dairy. The health benefits from these foods outweigh the unsubstantiated risks.
  • Intradialytic hypotension has reduced with Dr. Izmir volume control policy: Dr. Izmir’s clinic in Turkey has had great results with strict dietary salt restriction to limit intradialytic weight gain (IDWG) and cessation of anti-hypertensive medications to prevent intradialytic hypotension. This volume control strategy has also been associated with lower rates of hospitalization, lower mortality, normalized blood pressure (BP) in the absence of BP meds, improved cardiac structure and function, improved body composition and markers of nutritional status, and reduced intradialytic hypotension.
  • There is a difference in the way Europe and the U.S. treat end-stage renal disease (ESRD). In Europe dialysis is not started if life expectancy is not good.  Also, Doctors in Europe can stop dialysis if patients are non-compliant.  In the U.S. dialysis is started no matter the life expectancy and continued whether patients are compliant or not.
  • Exercise is an important component of chronic renal disease (CRD) treatment. Demonstrated benefits include better body composition, improved muscle strength and physical function, improved cardiovascular structure and function, improved dialysis efficiency and improved quality of life!

I encourage you to watch this webinar if you have not seen it and share this information with others.  Also please provide your opinion as to whether you would consider some of these options for treatment at your clinic. There are some great opportunities for discussion.


 Ozkahya M et al. Am J Kidney Dis 1999; 34: 218-21

Ozkahya M et al. J Nephrol 2002; 15: 655-60

Ozkahya et al. NDT2006; 21: 3506-13

Heiwe et al. Am J Kidney Dis. 2014 Sep; 64(3):383-93

Barcellos et al. Clin Kidney J. 2015 Dec; 8(6):753-65

This post was written by Robin Allen, a member of the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) Nutrition and Wellness team that aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Find out more about the MFLN Nutrition and Wellness concentration on our website, on Facebookon Twitterand LinkedIn.


Working Together in Addressing Sensitive Topics – We want to hear from you!

Listening Session IMG

Listening Session: Working Together in Addressing Sensitive Topics

Date: August 10, 2016

Time: 11:00 a.m. Eastern

The MFLN Military Caregiving concentration would like to invite you to join us at 11:00 a.m. ET, August 10, 2016 for a Listening Session entitled, Working Together in Addressing Sensitive Topics. Yep, you read that right…Listening Session. The session will offer an opportunity for your voice to be heard and for you to actively communicate your client concerns with fellow peers and colleagues.

Often caregivers find it difficult to discuss sensitive topics such as finances, asking for help, intimacy, mental health and other topics with military service providers. During the listening session you will have a chance to identify specific sensitive topics that can be found within your field, as well as challenges you face when communicating these sensitive topics. The session will briefly introduce the importance of interpersonal relationships and its effects on varying adult learning styles, followed by an in-depth, engaged session from you, the service provider.

The information we gather from this listening session will set the stage for our Military Caregiving concentration’s three-part Virtual Learning Event (VLE), held this fall on Communicating Sensitive Topics: A Service providers Approach to Working with Caregivers. Be ready to share your sensitive topics, case studies, scenarios and questions with colleagues on August 10th in similar special healthcare disciplines.


Certificate of Completion

The MFLN Military Caregiving concentration will offer a certificate of completion following the webinar.

Interested in Joining the Webinar?

To join the webinar, simply click on Listening Session: Working Together in Addressing Sensitive Topics. The webinar is hosted by the Department of Defense APAN system, but is open to the public.

If you cannot connect to the APAN site, an alternative viewing of this presentation will be running on Ustream. Mobile options for Ustream are available on all Apple and Android devices.


 This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on July 29, 2016.


The Military Child’s Experience: Part Two

Sailor and daughter
USS Anzio sailors depart Norfolk (Photo by: Petty Officer 2nd Class Rafael Martie) CC BY 2.0

Recently the MFLN Family Development Early Intervention team published Part One of an interview  with Kellie, a young woman who grew up in a military family.  You can read Part One of that interview here.  Today we bring you the final thoughts of our guest.  This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Did you move frequently? If so, what strategies did you use to get used to your new “home” and make new friends? What recommendations do you have for adults to help military children through these transitions?

I moved every 2-4 years depending on my dad’s job at the time. I have moved a total of seven times since I was born. I think the best strategy I used to adjust to my new home when I was younger was just getting involved in activities and not being shy. One thing a lot of kids don’t realize is that everyone truly wants to be friends with the new kid!

As I got older it got harder. I was in the same place for all of middle school and I got very comfortable with that place. I was on a dance team, I had a set group of friends, and activities I was involved in. I then found out I was moving to a new school, in a new state, at the beginning of my freshman year of high school. That was devastating news for a teenager. I focused on a goal: I was going to make the high school dance team, no matter what I had to do. I started emailing my new school’s dance coach; I set up a video audition, and ended up making the team. I met my team the summer before school started, which meant I had thirteen friends on that first day of school. It made the transition so much easier.

I did this again when I moved to Florida the summer before my junior year. This time, my parents drove me from Missouri to Florida in order to try out for my new dance team in person after months of contact with my new coach. Once again, I made the team, gained new friends, and even lived with a girl on my team for a month because my dad couldn’t leave work yet, and I had to be in Florida for dance practices. Having friends before school helped me so much, and I will forever be grateful for them because they made my transitions so much easier!

My advice for a child before moving is to make goals and get involved in things you love. Just because you move does not mean you cannot do your favorite things. There are ways for you to meet new people when you move finding something in common with them makes this easier. For parents, support you children, push them to be involved, and go above and beyond for them. My parents worked so hard to make sure my adjustment was as easy as it could possibly be.

If you could talk to your “young” self today, what would you tell him or her about concerns or anxieties you might have had as a young child with military parents?

  • I would tell myself not to worry and that everything truly does happen for a reason. I would tell myself that because of what I am going through, I am becoming a stronger person and gaining leadership qualities that most kids do not have.
  • I would tell myself to push for my goals and do anything I can to reach them.
  • And finally, I would tell myself that as much as it feels like your world may be crashing down around you, it is going to be okay, you just have to stay strong and be positive.

What are some of the things you can remember that your teachers did for you at school that helped you adjust/cope with military family life?

I was blessed with amazing teachers who cared about where I was from, what I was learning before, and what my interests were.

  • They helped to facilitate friendships.
  • They cared when I was behind and took extra time to get me to where I needed to be.
  • If I was ahead, they continued to challenge me.

Teachers should build relationships with their students; that is the greatest gift they can give a child. I know it really seems simple, but I remember those teachers because of their relationship with me and how much they cared for me. Those are the things that matter, because teachers will establish trust with a student, who is then able to look to that teacher for help when they need it.

From your own experience growing up in a military family, what one piece of advice would you give to:

  • Military parents who currently have young children?
    • Get them involved. What they are involved in when they are young is what they will grow to love and set goals for when they are older.
    • Support them in everything they want to do. Do not ever tell a child that they cannot do something. Parents are their child’s lifeline and should do everything they can for them.
  • Other children military or civilian?
    • Follow your dreams and set goals for yourself. No matter what boundaries you may run into, you can beat them and achieve your goals.
    • Do not be afraid to dive into something new.
    • Think of the positives about being a military kid, not the negatives, and learn from your experiences. Be proud of yourself and where you came from, because you live a much cooler life then most kids!
  • Other adults about military children?
    • Be open-minded and try to understand what the child is going through before you make assumptions. So often military children get ignored or pushed to the side. Do not be the person who lets that happen, especially if you are a teacher. As a teacher, you are their go-to person to make them feel comfortable, and you can truly be the person who makes their experience a more positive one. I may be just a little bit biased, as I am a future teacher, but it is so obvious how powerful a teacher is in a child’s life, so use that power!

This post was edited by Robyn DiPietro-Wells & Amy Santos, PhD, members of the MFLN FD Early Intervention team, which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, and YouTube.

Personal Finance Ethics Webinar

Dr. Michael Gutter and financial practitioner Jerry Buchko are presently a highly-anticipated webinar on ethical issues for financial professionals on Tuesday, August 2. Register now for Personal Finance Professional Ethics & Standards of Practice  – A Professional Dialogue.

Image by Mark Morgan
Image by Mark Morgan

This webinar training will be offered and conducted as a facilitated professional discussion and participation in the discussion will be encouraged. Participants will be expected to review the professional ethics and standards of practice for their respective certification bodies ahead of the discussion session. A high level introduction to the subject of ethics will be offered as a primer for understanding the basics of ethics (for those who may not have had any previous formal education or training in ethics) and this will, along with the pre-session readings, help to serve as a framework for approaching the discussion of case studies. A number of brief case studies will be presented, and participants will be given an opportunity to respond in text to questions posed about each case study, including how they might respond in these situations. We will then consider and discuss the case study scenario and our various responses.

This webinar is approved for 1.5 CEUs for AFC-credentialed and CPFC-credentialed participants.

From our evaluation surveys, we know many of you have been requesting a session on ethics we anticipate a highly engaged audience for this webinar. Join us on Aug. 2 for this great session.

Cybershopping Saving Strategies

 By Jennifer Hunter, Ph.D., University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service

Online shopping has a lot of appeal because it is fast, easy, and convenient. Last year, consumers spent $2 billion online on Cyber Monday, the Monday following Thanksgiving. As more and more purchases are made online, consider these tips to score the best deals:

  • Before you buy, look for coupon codes. Coupon codes are normally a series of letters or numbers that you enter when checking out online. If you are a member of the website’s mailing list, you probably regularly receive coupon codes via email. If not, simply type the name of the online merchant and the words “coupon code” into an internet search engine. Typically, the coupon code will be for free shipping, upgraded shipping, or a percent off merchandise purchased. Be certain to check the expiration date and details of the coupon code; you may be required to spend a certain dollar amount to receive the benefit.
  • When checking out at the mall, are you consistently asked to provide your email
    Join us in saving this month by making small daily deposits July 1-30 to save $100 in 30 days.
    Join us in saving this month by making small daily deposits July 1-30 to save $100 in 30 days.

    address after the purchase? Although the idea of receiving extra coupons to stores where you shop is appealing, the idea of filling up your in-box with spam is often enough to make you pass. Consider setting up a free email account that you can use only for retailers. You will not need to check the account often, but when you are ready to make an online purchase, you can search the account for recent coupons.

  • If you are not in a hurry for your purchase, consider leaving your virtual shopping cart hanging for a few days. If you have created an online account with a merchant, place your items in the shopping cart but do not complete the purchase. After a day or two in limbo, a merchant will often email a coupon to encourage you to complete the transaction.
  • Daily deal websites are growing in popularity. Daily deal sites offer products and/or services at discounted prices, often 50% or more off retail. Typically someone who has signed up for daily deals will receive either email or social media alerts to the “deal of the day.” There is no doubt that daily deals offer the opportunity to grab some great items at significant discounts; however, you may also be tempted to buy an item or service that you don’t really need or hadn’t planned on purchasing. Normally, daily deals are offered for a limited amount of time and have limited quantities available, often encouraging the buyer to make an impulsive decision in an attempt to avoid missing the big savings. If the daily deal is for a product or service that you use often, it may make sense to snatch the item quickly, but be cautious not to just click buy because it is such a great deal. Be certain that it is an item or service that you need and will use.
  • Remember to safeguard your personal information when online shopping. You are entering a tremendous amount of personal information (your name, phone number, address, etc., not to mention your credit card information). Always make certain that you are using a personal/home computer for online shopping. Public computers, such as those at work or the public library, may store your information that someone could access later. Be certain that the website you are using is secure. Once you enter into the shopping cart phase of a website, the web address should have a “s” after the http. The “s” indicates that your data will be transmitted securely. Also, be certain that you are on a legitimate retailer’s site. Knock-off websites do exist and at times it may be difficult to tell the difference from the real thing.
  • Use a credit card, as opposed to a debit card, when shopping online. When you pay with a credit card there is a period of time between when you make the purchase and when you pay your credit card bill. This gives you time to dispute a charge if something goes wrong with the transaction. When you pay with a debit card, you are authorizing the retailer to go ahead and debit your account. Most likely you will still be able to successfully dispute a charge, but the money will be missing from your account until the dispute is settled.

Contact Jennifer at



Military Caregiving Webinar Reminder

TRICARE ECHO blog imgDon’t forget to join us next week at 11:00 a.m. ET on Wednesday, July 27 as we provide a special healthcare needs webinar for military service providers on the TRICARE® Extended Care Health Options (ECHO) program.

Presenters from the Defense Health Agency (DHA) will provide participants with an overview of the ECHO program, which provides supplemental services to active duty family members with qualifying mental or physical disabilities, and highlight services beyond those offered by the basic TRICARE® health benefits program. Learning objectives include:

  • Understanding conditions to qualify for ECHO coverage
  • Identifying benefits to program
  • Review ECHO Home Health Care services
  • Determine how ECHO and the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) work together
  • Understand ECHO and the Autism Care Demonstration (ACD)

You can register for this free professional development opportunity by going to Continuing education (CE) credit will be provided to credentialed participants from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), as well as certificates of completion for those interested in receiving training hours.

For more information about this webinar including the speakers, continuing education credits and how to join, please visit our announcement blog from June entitled Upcoming Webinar – TRICARE® Extended Care Health Option (ECHO).

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on July 22, 2016.


Service Members, Families & Communities Benefit from Outdoor Recreation


The benefits of using nature contact or outdoor recreation with Service members are well documented, including contemplative, recreational, and hands-on habitat restoration activities.  Stacy Bare pic

In December 2015 MFLN Family Transitions hosted a webinar, Returning Warriors: Using Outdoor Recreation for Restoration & Resilience that engaged military service providers to identify the value of transitioning service members’ participation in outdoor recreation;  analyze research related to using outdoor recreation; become familiar with formal and informal opportunities; and prepare to refer Service members to  recreational/outdoor opportunities. Facilitators for the webinar included Stacy Bare, Director of Sierra Club Outdoors and Keith Tidball, Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University. Both are Veterans.

Following the webinar MFLN Family Transitions connected with Stacy to learn more about the value of interacting with the outdoors and to seek advice for military service providers.

MFLN Family Transitions (MFLN-FT): When you talk about ‘outdoor recreation’ what does that all involve?

 Stacy Bare (SB): Anything outdoors. Stop and take a look out your window into the backyard, take a walk around the block, cast a fly in your driveway or spend four months hiking the Appalachian Trail, a couple of days attempting to summit the Grand Teton or car camping with your family.

MFLN-FT: Tell us about your favorite outdoor recreational activities and how you became involved.

 SB: I’m lucky enough to do a lot outdoors and have a lot of very kind friends who invite me on some really cool trips. Climbing saved my life and skiing sustains it, but what makes an activity great is the people you are with—and sometimes solo trips. My wife just gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and I’ve spent the last month doing a lot of cross country skiing because I’ve enjoyed the exercise and the easy nature of getting out into nature and on skis with a far shorter drive and far more spontaneously then I could go ski touring for example—so right now that’s my favorite.

MFLN-FT: What are the benefits for service members and their families who participate in outdoor recreation?

SB: The benefits are many, I’ll give you a short list here:

  • Experiencing awe, which we’re learning through our partnership with the Greater Good Science Center at Cal-Berkeley and the Great Outdoors Lab has real physical and mental health benefits
  • Camaraderie and connecting with your friends and family, we also are learning it improves overall mental and family health resilience
  • Seeing the country you fought for—the actual physical country
  • Learning a new skill can be a benefit
  • Often times a lot of laughter
  • Creating a sense of purpose

MFLN-FT: How might communities benefit when individuals become involved in outdoor recreation? 

SB: People who spend time outdoors we know are typically more empathetic and more curious, more willing to seek help and more willing to engage with strangers. That means if you have a community full of people who are engaging in outdoor recreation, they’re interested in meeting people, solving community problems, and they put themselves in the shoes of other folks. Who doesn’t want to live in an empathetic, caring community that’s working to help each other and find solutions to problems?

MFLN-FT: Describe the Sierra Outdoors Program. 

SB: I like to think of us as the heart and soul of the Sierra Club. John Muir’s original vision of the Sierra Club was to get people outdoors to experience the beauty and joy of outdoor spaces. We still do that. We get out more than 250,000 people each year through three broad programs: Local Outings, which operate out of our 63 chapters nationwide, there are 400 plus groups doing everything from family picnics to movie nights to ski mountaineering, white water paddling, international trips, day hikes, etc. Inspiring Connections Outdoors works in 50+ communities nationwide to get people outside who otherwise may not have the opportunity. Finally, our newest program, started in 2006, is the Military Outdoors program which connects service members, veterans, and their families to the outdoors. I came to the Sierra Club in 2011 to redesign and relaunch the Military Outdoors program, which as a veteran of the war in Iraq, remains very close to my heart.

MFLN-FT: How can military service providers connect service members & their families with your program or similar programs in their community?

SB: Call us (385-209-5681), connect with us on Facebook, Twitter @SierraOutdoors, Instagram (stacyabare), or email One of the things that is unique to our programs and that I’m most proud about is our volunteer leadership training. If we’re not doing something in your area or something you want to be doing, come get trained as a leader and we’ll have you leading a trip soon after that training. The thing to remember is that we don’t care what your background is or your current state of health—we will work with you so you can enjoy the outdoors how you want to under human power. There’s something for everyone outside.

MFLN-FT: What advice do you have for service members who don’t want to participate in a formal program, but just want informal experiences? 

SB: We really hope that our program isn’t just getting people outside, but is inspiring folks to go out and do more and that people will leave our program and keep getting outside—so that’s a long way to say that I think most people get outside informally. You don’t have to use a lot of fancy gear, for most things jeans and good sneakers will work fine—

Look first in your immediate community, where are the parks? If you’re active duty call the MWR office, see if you can rent gear, go talk to someone at your local outdoor store about where to go and what activities are available in the area and how to access them. Buy a guide book or watch a YouTube video about what you want to do, take a day class, go for a walk—just get outside!

MFLN-FT: What is your vision related to military service members and their families related to outdoor recreation?

SB: Long term I want every service member to be able to use at least a week of permissive TDY to get outside throughout the year. I’d love to see all mental health resiliency programs include an outdoor recreation component and outdoor recreation be a part of all mental health treatment programs vs. an alternative or elective treatment program.

MFLN-FT: Please share any final thoughts (if any).

SB: Go outside!


Stacy Bare  is a climber and skier, the Director of Sierra Club Outdoors (SCO), a brand ambassador for The North Face, Keen Shoes, and a veteran of the war in Iraq. SCO gets out 250,000+ people each year. Under his direction, SCO launched the Great Outdoors Lab with the University of California-Berkeley in 2014 to put scientifically defensible data behind the power of the outdoors to support improved mental, physical, and thereby public health with an emphasis on youth and military veterans. He is also the 2015 SHIFT Festival Adventure Athlete of the Year and a 2014 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. He, his wife, and their new daughter live in Salt Lake City, UT.


Off the Shelf: Conversations with Authors of Children’s Books

The Family Development Early Intervention team is always on the look-out for quality children’s books that help address some of the unique needs of military children.

Seth Kastle Used with subject's permission
Seth Kastle Used with subject’s permission

The following is an interview with Seth Kastle, author of two popular children’s books, Why Is Dad So Mad? and Why Is Mom So Mad?, both dealing specifically with PTSD in parents.  This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What if any experiences do you have with the military?

I retired from the Army Reserve in 2014, after 16 years in service. During my career I served as a Logistician, Infantryman, a Drill Sergeant, and a Company First Sergeant. I deployed in February 2002 to Qatar, and then in April to Mazar-E-Sharif Afghanistan until September of that year. I deployed for the initial invasion of Iraq in January of 2003 until April of 2004; I spent the majority of this tour in Mosul. I had to have a pacemaker implanted in 2010, which made me ineligible to continue my military career.

What made you decide to write this book? Was there some incident or experience with the military that inspired you?

I wish I could say that I was a completely benevolent person, and I simply wrote this book because I knew there was a greater need, but that is not the case. I wrote this book because of personal need. I was looking for a way to explain who I am now to my children and I could not find resources that achieved this purpose. I sat down and wrote the book along with illustration notes after a bad day at work. It took me about 30 minutes. I then did what a lot people who write do…I filed it away on my computer, never to be seen again. I had a friend who had just published a book on succeeding as a foster child who kept prodding me to take the steps to make publication a reality.

Opening up and talking about my journey with PTSD has been extremely difficult for me. This is not something that is talked about much as there is a stigma that goes along with PTSD. There was hardly anyone who knew I was having problems. In fact, only my wife and two to three friends that I had been in Iraq or Afghanistan with were aware of my struggles. It was because I knew there was a large need for a book like this, that I was pushed into actually publishing it.

What message do you hope that children of families receive as a result of reading these books?

The thesis statements of the books are that even though Dad (or Mom) gets mad often, it is not the child’s fault. In the books I use metaphors to illustrate to children what is happening inside Dad (or Mom) when they get angry. Parenting is tough, even without additional obstacles; parents with PTSD have a harder time dealing with a lot of the common stressors of family life. It does not mean they do not love their children or care about their children’s feelings.


Have you received any feedback from military families after they read your book, and if so, what have they said?

This has actually been the most rewarding part of the entire book project coming to life. I have literally heard from hundreds of military families that have read my books. They have thanked me for writing the books, and they explained how this book helped them explain to their children what is happening with their Dad (or Mom). These books are not a magic fix for PTSD and family dynamics; my hope though is that they are set the stage for starting conversations. One email that sticks out in my head was from a Veteran who wrote to me and said, “You know that look your child gets the first time they understand something, my son got that look tonight when I read your book to him.” I have also had a number of Vietnam Veterans and their families reach out to me and say that they wished they had had this book 30 years ago. Some of them have even said that they bought the book for their adult children to help them understand now why things were the way they were when they were growing up.

Do you have plans to write another book that focuses on the military? If so what is the focus of that book and when might we expect to see it?

I feel like there needs to be a book that explains divorce to military children. The national divorce rate is high and the military is no different. I feel a large part of why my books have been successful is because they were written based on my experience, so they were true to life. Divorce is not something that I have experienced so I may not be able to do the book justice. To do it right I would need to, at a minimum, collaborate with a service member who has been through a divorce.

This post was edited by Robyn DiPietro-Wells Michaelene Ostrosky, PhD, members of the MFLN FD Early Intervention team, which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, and YouTube.

Clip and Save: Stretching Your Grocery Dollar

By Jennifer Hunter, Ph.D., University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service

Regardless of the reason, whether it’s to save a few extra dollars or the thrill of scoring a good deal, couponing has become very popular. Have you seen TLC’s popular television show, Extreme Couponing, highlighting families who save hundreds of dollars at the register by using coupons? Do you ever wonder how someone can actually save that much at the grocery? Although most of us will not be able to reduce our grocery bill to a few dollars, there are a few simple couponing strategies that you can use to stretch your military family’s grocery dollars.

The first step before even setting foot in the store is to get organized. Planning ahead for meal time can help you save both time and money, whether you use store ads or coupons. At the beginning of every week, spend a few minutes planning the meals you will need for the week. It is often helpful to look at a calendar, keeping in mind which nights your daughter has softball practice or your son has guitar lessons.

Join us in saving this month by making small daily deposits July 1-30 to save $100 in 30 days.
Join us in saving this month by making small daily deposits July 1-30 to save $100 in 30 days.

Planning ahead will prevent the last-minute panic of trying to figure out what to serve for dinner or turning to fast food from the drive-through. As you prepare your list, don’t just think about the evening meal, but also think of all meals that you will be serving for the week, including breakfast and lunches for both school and work. Also, consider meal options that include items you already have at home, especially perishables such as meat and dairy products.

Once you have your meal plan for the week, search your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer, making a list of the items to pick up at the store to complete your menu. You will also want to add any kitchen staples that you may need. After your list is complete, search your local stores’ weekly sale ads and coupons to find the best price. Sale ads, as well as coupons, can normally be found online, at the store, or in the Sunday edition of your local newspaper. You may also request coupons directly from manufacturers, although there is no guarantee that they will respond. Be flexible with your meal plan; if you see a great bargain on an item, such as beef or chicken, consider rearranging your list to incorporate it into your menu. However, once you are at the store, stick to your list. A last-minute change at the store could leave you without key ingredients to complete your meal plan.

As you review weekly sales ads and coupons, keep in mind that if you are able to purchase the item for 50% off or more it is a good deal. For example, let’s assume macaroni and cheese normally costs $1.20 per box, but is on sale this week for $1.00, and you have a $0.50 coupon. If the store doubles coupons, your mac and cheese will be free, but if not, it would only cost you $0.50, a savings of nearly 60%. This is an item that you would definitely want to grab, but only if your family likes mac and cheese. Do not buy a bargain, just because it is a bargain. If no one at home likes a particular food item, but it is a good deal, either pass on it at the store or purchase it and donate it to a local food bank or charity. Also, you will need to become an informed consumer to know whether a sale is really a good deal. Maintaining a spending diary is a good financial practice to monitor monthly expenses. A detailed grocery-spending diary will help you quickly recognize a bargain price. Track the prices you typically pay for common household goods. You can reference your grocery diary to see whether an advertised sale price is really a good deal and if you should stock up on it or wait for a better price.

Scanning weekly grocery ads and coupon circulars can seem like a time-consuming task for a busy person. Consider using internet search engines, social media, and both store and coupon websites to make the process faster. There are several websites that can help you locate the best deals and coupons quickly. Be cautious of fee-based websites; there are several reputable free sites available. Talk with friends and other couponers to find the best online resources. If you are considering a fee-based site, make certain you understand the fees and services provided. Be cautious about coupons on the Internet. Coupons can be counterfeited the same as money, and it is illegal to use fake coupons. Make certain that you are printing coupons from a legitimate source, such as or You might recognize the names RedPlum and SmartSource from the coupon circulars that are normally in the Sunday paper. These are examples only and there are many other sources of Internet coupons.

Learning to coupon takes time and patience. Try not to become overwhelmed in the beginning. Remember, small savings are still savings, and they provide you with additional

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