Employment Numbers Nearly Triple Initial ‘Joining Forces’ Goal
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 30, 2013 Some 290,000 veterans and military spouses have been hired since the inception of the “Joining Forces” initiative two years ago, nearly tripling the initial goal, First Lady Michelle Obama announced here today.
First Lady Michelle Obama challenges U.S. businesses to hire veterans and military spouses during a "Joining Forces" event at the White House, April 30, 2013. President Barack Obama, third from left, Vice President Joe Biden, second from left, and Biden's wife, Dr. Jill Biden, participated in the event. Some 290,000 veterans and military spouses have been hired since the launch of the hiring initiative two years ago, nearly tripling the initial goal. White House photo by Chuck Kennedy
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Numerous businesses also have vowed to hire or train an additional 435,000 people during the next five years, she added during a White House briefing.
The first lady and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, established Joining Forces in June 2011 to mobilize support from every sector of American society to help service members, their families and veterans.
“[Michelle and Jill] identify so deeply with these military families because they understand the sacrifices that they’re making,” President Barack Obama said at the announcement event.
The president acknowledged Cabinet members, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other top military leaders in the audience.
“We appreciate all the great work that [you’re] doing,” he said, “and your presence reflects our commitment to this cause across the entire government.”
“I applaud the first lady’s and Dr. Biden's leadership in challenging U.S. businesses to employ America's veterans and military spouses,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement released after the event. “Their announcement today … demonstrates that American companies can benefit greatly from the highly skilled and hard-working members of our military family.”
Hagel also said he welcomes the commitment of businesses to hire or train an additional 435,000 individuals during the next five years, and he pledged that the Defense Department will do its part.
“[I] am committed to ensuring that our service members transitioning to civilian life and our military spouses have the support they richly deserve when it comes to finding a job, pursuing an education, or starting a business,” Hagel said.
Noting that more remains to be done, the president said employment continues to lag behind the national average for post-9/11 veterans, especially for the youngest veterans.
“This does not make any sense,” he said. “If you can save a life on the battlefield, then you sure as heck can save one in an ambulance in a state-of-the-art hospital. If you can oversee a convoy of equipment and track millions of dollars of assets, then you can run a company’s supply chain or you can balance its books. If you can lead a platoon in a war zone, then I think you can lead a team in a conference center.”
The vice president said the nation owes much to those who have served.
“There’s only one truly sacred obligation in my view, and that's to equip those we send to war and care for those who come home from war and their families,” he said. And quoting the president, he added, “No one who fights for this country overseas should have to come home and fight for a job when they come back home.”
Dr. Biden said she and the first lady have had “the incredible honor” of meeting military spouses all around the country.
“I’m always amazed by their strength, their commitment, and, most importantly, by their resilience,” she said.
She added that she’s learned a lot about the strength of military families. “What stands out the most [is] they never complain,” she said. “Whatever the situation, they keep on serving, doing whatever needs to be done. Military spouses … have so much to offer -- their skills, their incredible work ethic, and perhaps most of all, their endless energy.”
The first lady said Joining Forces began with a challenge to every segment of society to commit to supporting military families, and since then, the nation has joined forces “in many amazing ways.”
“We have seen doctors and nurses take bold new steps to care for the families affected by [post-traumatic stress disorder] and traumatic brain injuries,” she said. “We’ve seen colleges sign up to train teachers to be more responsive to the needs of our military children in their classrooms. We’ve seen community groups and houses of worship and citizens from every walk of life show their appreciation for our military families, not just with words, but with deeds.”
Today’s event provided a chance to recognize the “tremendous efforts of business across the country,” the first lady said.
“These efforts are about so much more than a paycheck,” she added. “This is about giving these men and women a source of identity and purpose. It’s about providing thousands of families with financial security, and giving our veterans and military spouses the confidence that they can provide a better future for their children.
“Today is simply just a mile marker, and we're not going to stop until every single veteran or military spouse that is searching for a job has found one,” she added. “We will stand with you now and for decades to come.”