First Lady Pledges Support For Military Families
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2011 First Lady Michelle Obama said what impresses her most about military families is their strength, pride and courage.
First Lady Michelle Obama talks with soldiers about the nutrition initiative, "Fueling the Soldier," while touring the dining facility on Fort Jackson, S.C., January 27, 2011. Army leaders briefed the First Lady on the consequences of childhood obesity, poor childhood nutrition and the lack of physical exercise on military readiness. They also toured the post’s new “Soldier Athlete" initiative. White House photo by Samantha Appleton
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“Their willingness to sacrifice without complaint moves me every single time," Obama said during an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. The episode, “The Bravest Families in America,” aired today.
The first lady said she became an admirer of military families during her husband’s campaign for the presidency.
"Whenever I'm feeling bad, feeling sorry for myself, I suck it up because of these families," she said, noting that military families are “holding it together, making it happen.”
Part of the challenge of getting the message out about military families “is that they never ask for help," she continued. "You don't do that when you're in the military. You get it done. That's how you're trained. That's what you're taught."
President Barack Obama this week announced an initiative that commits agencies across the government to improve conditions for service members, their spouses and children.
The document outlining the federal effort, “Strengthening Our Military Families: Meeting America’s Commitment,” pledges government agencies to enhance the well-being and psychological health of the military family; ensure excellence in military children’s education and their development; develop career and educational opportunities for military spouses; and increase child care availability and quality for the armed forces.
Examples of these efforts include a Health and Human Services partnership with the Defense Department to confront suicide trends, treat military family psychological needs, and expand access to and improve the quality of child care.
Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, Labor and HHS have joined in the goal of “unqualified elimination” of homelessness among veterans by 2015.
“We’re going to end homelessness among veterans,” the first lady said. “That should be over.”
The departments of Defense, Labor and Commerce, and the Small Business Administration have pledged a collaborative commitment to engage American corporations in expanding career opportunities for military spouses.
“Employment is critical,” Obama said, because military spouses move every few years, and often face career obstacles as a result.
“Even in a good economy, it’s difficult if an employer believes you’re going to leave in the next couple of years,” she noted.
The first lady said there are plenty of opportunities for a similar commitment, on a smaller scale, from communities and citizens.
She and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, will launch their own initiative in March aimed at energizing that grass-roots commitment across the nation, Obama said.
“We’re going to ask the country to get ourselves together and be a part of reconnecting these families to be a part of the broader community," she said.
Obama said the “help and support” she’s asking the country to give can be as simple as a counselor offering free sessions, an accountant helping a military family prepare their taxes, or small businesses offering a night out or a manicure to a military spouse –- most of whom are women.
“A lot of these women can use … a break,” she said. “There are things we can do as a nation, big and small.”