AgriLife Extension military programs project team receives Superior Service Award

COLLEGE STATION — The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service military program’s Wounded Warrior Project has received a Superior Service Award in the team category.

The Superior Service Award is given to individuals or teams who demonstrate exceptional performance or provide exceptional service to AgriLife Extension, an educational outreach agency of the Texas A&M University System.

The award was presented to team members Jan. 8 at the AgriLife Conference on the Texas A&M University campus.

AgriLife Extension members of the Wounded Warrior Project team include Donna Martin, program director; Vernon Davis, program coordinator; Rachel Brauner, AgriLife Extension associate; and Lynne Piippo, program assistant. Additional team members include Rhonda Montgomery, professor, and Mary Brintnall-Peterson, consultant, both with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“Many military families are now caring for wounded warriors who have experienced significant changes in abilities resulting from loss of limbs, post-traumatic stress disorder, vision or hearing loss, traumatic brain injury, severe burns or spinal cord injury,” the award nomination stated. “Care giving can be a long-term journey for military families of younger wounded warriors and other generations of veterans with complex medical conditions.”

In 2009, the Wounded Warrior Project was developed under a $3 million grant as an educational collaboration between AgriLife Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture–National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the U.S. Army, Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command. An initiative was established by the military program of AgriLife Extension to focus on family caregivers and wounded service members transitioning back to active duty or reintegrating into the civilian community. The project was implemented through 32 Soldier and Family Assistance Center locations nationwide.

AgriLife Extension was responsible “for providing ‘just-in-time’ educational materials tailored to military caregivers and their wounded warriors,” the nomination stated. Educational items were designed to provide information concerning specific medical conditions, caregiver coping and resiliency, and the challenges of caring for seriously and very seriously injured service members.

The Wounded Warrior Project team developed educational programs and training, including producing 11 educational fact sheets with tips and strategies for caregivers, developing an 84-page ‘Caregiving 101′ handbook for military caregivers and producing a Military Family Caregiving DVD series. This DVD series consisted of 11 three-to-five minute videos pertaining to wounded warrior medical issues and injuries.

AgriLife Extension also partnered with the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee to develop a research tool tailored to the military community, which it named TCARE. This tool provides care managers with an assessment of general caregiver burden and stress, and matches family caregiver needs with community and military resources for support.

The collaboration was also helpful in assessing caregiver needs and behavioral/mental health issues through research conducted at five Soldier Family Assistance Center test sites, which team members also visited to gather installation resources for the caregiver assessment tool. They also trained assistance center staff members relating to certification in and administration of TCARE.

“By achieving these objectives, the program is providing a foundation for caregivers of wounded warriors and assistance center personnel to build upon,” the nomination stated. “The Wounded Warrior Program is dedicated to meeting the needs of wounded, ill or injured service members and those who care for them.”

In a commendation letter supporting the team’s nomination, Brent Elrod, national program leader – military and veterans programs, USDA-NIFA, wrote, “The leadership and team of specialists assembled by Texas AgriLife to work on this multi-million dollar grant have met this grand challenge. The team has successfully provided direct education and support in a variety of areas for the U.S. Army Soldier and Family Assistance Centers, military personnel, and wounded service members and their families nationwide.”

Elrod stated that team members each played an important role in the innovative program accomplishments and that “the development and coordination of the research and educational materials (was) largely due their ability to work effectively with others in the academic arena, medical sector and military community.”

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