A panel discussion on Oct. 2 at Kansas State University marked the opening of the university's new Institute for the Health and Security of Military Families.

The event took place at Forum Hall in K-State's Student Union and addressed the current and future needs of military families.

Lt. Gen. Robert E. Durbin, former commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley, and his wife, Diana delivered a down-to-earth and inspirational keynote lecture titled "Army Strong...Lightening Their Load."

College of Human Ecology Dean Virginia Moxley cited the Durbins as instrumental in forging the partnership between K-State and Fort Riley.

Diana, an educator with experience spanning almost three decades, has been an Army spouse for 34 years. She took the audience back in time as she discussed the history of the Army and Family, noting that this relationship has existed since the Army was founded. Her lecture continued with how the relationship between Army and Family has evolved over the years. She spoke about coffee groups that date back to long ago and how they were formed to serve as support groups for the spouses. She noted the simple change from Family Support Group (FSG) to Family Readiness Group (FRG) to signify a proactive group ready for action rather than reaction. Finally, Diana told a captivated the audience a story that was difficult for her to begin without getting choked up, let alone finish.

Lt. Gen. Durbin took her side as she told the story of her family's encounter with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) when her son was involved in an accident at 17-years-old.

With the help and support of Family and Army along the way, the Durbin's son has since been diagnosed as fully recovered.

Diana emphasized to attendees that the Army of One is history as the Army has embraced the Family life and takes equally good care of Family as they do its Soldiers.

Lt. Gen. Durbin followed his wife at the podium and spoke about the Global War on Terrorism and the effects that multiple long-term deployments have on our Soldiers.

Since 9/11 more than 1.9 million Americans have deployed to combat areas. More than 876,000 of those Soldiers are parents and 245,000 have deployed twice and many have deployed three or four times. Soldiers are being impacted in numerous ways: substance abuse, divorce, suicide - reaching an all-time high in 2008, domestic violence, debt, anger, depression and post traumatic stress. Lt. Gen. Durbin spoke about the changes in progress that are focused on helping "lighten the load" for our Soldiers.

Following the keynote lecture, there was a brief question and answer session. One of the audience members asked how Soldiers are supposed to seek help when there is such a negative stigma associated with needing help. Lt. Gen. Durbin gave a moving response that exposed the harsh reality a Soldier faces when readjusting to life at home after a deployment. After a 19-month tour in Afghanistan, Durbin was able to recall the day in December following his return that his wife finally said, "welcome back." That was five months after his homecoming.

The event concluded with a panel discussion on issues impacting military Families. Panelists included Carl and Mary Ice, Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer at BNSF Railway, Maj. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commanding general of the 1st Inf. Div. and Fort Riley, and his wife, Carol Brooks, and Col. George Dilly, U.S. Army Chief Dietician.

The panelists discussed important health and security issues facing military service members and their families, how community members can support the military community, and how academic institutions can better prepare students for future work with the military.