Bradford Woods: Family Battle Buddies Helps Veterans

FAMILY BATTLE BUDDIES:
Helping Veterans and Their Families Build Stronger Relationships

Written By: Robin Reid, Storyteller

The Community Foundation of Morgan County (CFMC) recognizes our veterans have made huge sacrifices to protect our freedom and when they return, many of them struggle to readjust to being part of a family or the workforce again. CFMC provides funding to local veterans organizations committed to helping vets find a new purpose for life after service.

Morgan County veterans and their families who are finding it difficult to return to a sense of “normalcy” after a deployment can spend a weekend at Bradford Woods to learn, or relearn, the necessary skills to help their families become cohesive once again.

Team building activities help veterans and their families strengthen their ability to trust and effectively communicate. (Photo provided by IU Communications Department)

Bradford Woods has real solutions for real problems.

Family Battle Buddies, thanks to the partnership between Bradford Woods and the Wounded Warrior Project, is a free, two-day program available to all veterans who are members of Wounded Warrior. To determine if you’re eligible for the Wounded Warrior Project, please go to www.woundedwarriorproject.org.

“Reintegration into the family is challenging especially for those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury or other physical or emotional disabilities,” said Jordan McIntire, Assistant Director of Military and Family Programming for Bradford Woods. “There aren’t a lot of programs focused on the family, because you can take a veteran out of their situation and enhance their skills, help them cope, etc., but the issue, when they’re trying to reintegrate back into that family unit, is that everyone needs to be on the same page.”

When a veteran mom or dad has been deployed, the family dynamics change concerning relationships, roles, and routines. Family Battle Buddies was created to help military families become more resilient as they work on being back together. Jordan and her team use recreational therapy, which is the intentional use of recreation to improve quality of life, to help families become stronger in three specific areas: beliefs, organization, and communication.

“After evaluating the actual needs of veterans and their families, it was discovered that resilient families had those three specific thoughts and skills in common. We intentionally tailor the activities towards enhancing these dynamics,” added McIntire. “We’re focused on helping families improve upon their strengths.”

Thanks to the generous partnership with the Wounded Warrior Project, families can participate for free. Paid expenses include travel, lodging, and meals. Families arrive on Friday night for dinner at Bradford Woods’ Manor House and then have two days filled with team building activities, unstructured recreational opportunities, a PTSD presentation, and a morning hike.

One of the most well-liked activities among families is going to the Agape Therapeutic Riding facility and painting horses. The paint is washable. After completing some groundwork activities with the horses, families pick a horse and then paint a word or more that states what they need more of in their family, such as love, trust or fun.

Using washable paint, veterans and their families paint one word on their chosen horse to communicate what they need more (i.e. love, trust, fun) of in their life. (Photo provided by IU Communications Department)

Strictly voluntary, families can attend McIntire’s presentation on PTSD. “People talk about PTSD, but they don’t really understand what it means and what it does to the brain and body. I think some people who have PTSD don’t fully understand what’s going on. I use this presentation to get everyone on the same page. Families receive resources and activities they can take home to do together, including two books explaining PTSD to younger and older children,” added McIntire.

Having grown up in a military family herself, with her dad stationed in South Korea for a year and then deployed for another year, McIntire can easily relate to the kids. “I feel like I can help advocate for the needs of the child. They’re stuck in this passive role, so I can step in and help their parents consider their needs as well,” she said.

According to McIntire, Family Battles Buddies is not a counseling program. “We don’t process trauma because we’re not counselors. We try to help them advocate for themselves and their needs. During the weekend we talk a lot about assertive communication. If I’m a vet with PTSD and I’m in the grocery store experiencing anxiety, instead of keeping quiet or blowing up, I can be assertive by saying to my partner, ‘I need to go sit in the car right now’.” That helps to build trust,” she added.

They also teach coping mechanisms to help veterans breathe and feel calmer, so they can talk to others and advocate for their needs. “We acknowledge their trauma and figure out how we can work around it together,” said McIntire.

After the weekend is over families continue to receive help and resources from both McIntire and the Wounded Warrior Project. McIntire does monthly, online follow-ups for one year. She sends pre-recorded presentations that families can view together as well as monthly challenges to continue focusing on their belief system, organization and communication patterns.

Jordan McIntire (right) comes from a military family and advocates for the children who participate in the Family Battle Buddies program. (Photo provided by IU Communications Department)

To learn more about this life-transforming program, please contact either McIntire at jlmcinti@indiana.edu or the Wounded Warrior Project at www.woundedwarriorproject.org.

You can help local Morgan County veterans find a new purpose for their lives by donating to one of CFMC’s veterans’ funds. Go to www.cfmconline.org and donate today.

CFMC’s mission is to connect donors and their charitable giving with our evolving community needs in order to enhance the quality of life for current and future generations through impact grantmaking. The vision of CFMC is to be the philanthropic leader and a catalyst in order to maximize available resources in our community.

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