First Lady Salutes Troops, Families in Vermont
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 1, 2011 National Guard and reserve members and their families deserve the thanks and support of a grateful nation, first lady Michelle Obama said in Vermont yesterday.
First Lady Michelle Obama expresses her appreciation to military families for the sacrifices they have made at the Vermont Army National Guard's Aviation Support Facility in South Burlington, Vt., June 30, 2011. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sarah Mattison
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
As part of her campaign to support military families, Obama spoke to military and other guests at the Vermont Army National Guard’s Aviation Support Facility in South Burlington.
“After meeting so many troops and veterans, after meeting so many spouses and children and parents, I can say with complete authority that you all are absolutely incredible,” Obama told the audience.
Reservists and Guard members, Obama said, rescue people from floods and hurricanes, clear roads during blizzards and serve in Iraq and Afghanistan alongside their active-duty counterparts.
Last year, she said, the Vermont National Guard experienced its largest deployment since World War II.
“Mary Small from Colchester knows a thing or two about all of this,” she said. “She is this year’s Northeast Military Family Member of the Year. Her husband, Phil, is an air ambulance pilot currently deployed in Iraq.”
While her husband is gone, Mary runs her household, takes care of their 10-year-old daughter, co-leads a family readiness group, runs fundraisers for Guard families, leads a Girl Scout troop and serves as treasurer of the PTA at her daughter’s school, Obama said.
“Military families like Mary’s represent the best of America,” the first lady said. “And you all juggle everything with such dignity and grace that most Americans never realize what you’re going through.”
In April, Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, launched an initiative called Joining Forces. The initiative, the first lady said, asks communities and businesses to help military families.
“Our motto is very simple,” Obama said. “Everyone can do something.”
At the direction of President Barack Obama, every federal agency is helping in the effort to meet nearly 50 goals, the first lady said, to include “everything from improving access to mental health care and child care to helping spouses and veterans find jobs.”
Companies and nonprofits also can help, Obama said, noting that when military spouses move to new duty stations, “companies like Sears and Kmart and Sam’s Club are working to ensure that those spouses have a job waiting for them when they get to their new station.”
Siemens has set aside a percentage of open positions for veterans, she added, and 16,000 veterans and spouses will start small businesses thanks to the SCORE Foundation and partners such as Wal-Mart, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft.
A nonprofit organization called Reach Out and Read is distributing 400,000 books to military children, and the PTA and the Military Child Education Coalition are helping schools better understand military children’s needs.
“At the Clarendon Elementary School right here in Vermont, students made their own care packages,” Obama said. The students recorded a song for troops in harm’s way, she said, and filled hand-colored boxes with notes and red, white and blue candy.
Such stories, Obama said, “show us that you do not have to be the first lady of the United States or a [chief executive officer] or a general to get involved in this effort, because no one can do everything, but everyone can do something.”
The first lady reiterated her pledge to support the nation’s military families, noting she wants them “to know that we have you in our hearts, we have you in our prayers, and we have your back.”