First Lady Visits Fort Bragg, Vows Support for Military Families
(March 16, 2009)
First lady Michelle Obama reads "The Cat in the
Hat" to children at Prager Child Development Center at Fort Bragg,
N.C., March 12, 2009. The first lady spoke with soldiers and family
members as part of her initiative to care for military families.
FORT BRAGG, N.C., March 13, 2009
First lady Michelle Obama
said she was committed to improving support for military families yesterday
during her first visit here as first lady.
said her commitment to improving family support began two years ago at the
beginning of her husband's campaign, after hearing about the challenges military
"I spent a lot of my time talking about issues that really affected me as a
working mom," Obama said. "I met more and more military families who were not
just struggling with those basic issues that all civilians are dealing with, but
they were tacking on multiple tours of duty and having to figure out how do you
keep a family together when you moved 10 times in the same number of years.
"I was moved by the power of those stories, and I committed to
myself then that if I was blessed with the opportunity to be the nation's first
lady, then I would make the issues facing military families a top priority for
me," she said. |
The first lady pointed out a few of the issues military families face including
quality education on military posts, adequate childcare for families who live
on- and off-post, and for military spouses, how to balance higher education,
careers and family support during deployments.
Obama said it is important to hear military families' concerns and provide a
voice for them in Washington.
"First of all, my
job is to listen and learn and to make sure that the families understand that
not only the Obama family, but the Obama administration values their service and
is going to be working to shine a light," she said. "I want to make sure that I
use my platform to ensure that the nation is aware of these challenges."
She said many people may assume that by caring for the troops, they also are
taking care of military families.
"I think many people were like me, not realizing so many of our military
families are living right at the poverty line," she explained, "not realizing
that it is hard for spouses to get jobs when the move, or that they can't often
transfer credits and finish their education, and they're struggling with the
high cost of quality and affordable childcare."
Obama said she wants to bring military families' issues to
"I also think that there are some real practical issues that the Obama
administration is expected to address," she said. "In the stimulus package,
there is more money for improved housing support, expanding childcare, and
making sure that we're caring for our wounded veterans."
The first lady said it is important to make sure that when
wounded veterans return home, they will receive quality medical care. She added
that in the current budget, the president also is looking for more money to
increase military pay, expand childcare and ensure that there is adequate mental
"Those are just some of the things," she said. "As
Barack said, this is a down payment on what we need to be doing, and
we've got to make sure that this budget passes and the dollars start
Obama spoke on the importance of having adequate childcare for
"I think everyone calms down when they think
their kids are taken care of," she said. "So having good childcare
facilities -- I think we're going to see some of that money start to
come in so that folks can get off the waiting lists and get into
childcare facilities. Not just on bases, but in the surrounding
communities as well, because not everybody lives on a base; not
everybody can transfer their kids back and forth to bases."
Many family members spoke to her about
streamlining the available support so that it is more consistent at
all bases, Obama said. It is equally important to make information
available to families to prevent hardships once they transfer to
different bases, she noted.
Obama said she was impressed with the Fort Bragg community.
"The spirit here, that impressed me the first
time I came here, just a little over a year ago,” she said. “The
folks here are very proud of their service, and the leadership here
takes support to families very seriously."
First lady Michelle Obama is greeted by soldiers inside the
Iron Mike Dining Facility at Fort Bragg, N.C., March 12, 2009. Obama spent most
of the day on the post before traveling to nearby Fayetteville to meet with city
She recalled one of the military spouses who recently had
spoken with her own mother and explained the kind of support available on the
post. She said the mother pointed out that none of those systems or programs
existed in the past when she was raising her family here. |
"Fort Bragg demonstrates that we've made a lot of progress in term of support
for military families," Obama said. "But I think the leadership here would say
that we still have work to do."
Obama praised Fort Bragg and the Fayetteville community, saying it is a model
for other military towns because of the support and facilities available to
soldiers and family members.
"There is a commitment to the resources that are needed across the board for
families," she said. "There's the Family Covenant that really sets forth the
priorities and the values that should guide the support that the military is
going to give.
"There's a broader community of support here in Fayetteville and the surrounding
counties that is the model," she continued. "So this is one of the places that
we should look for the type of support that we need."
Obama wants to put a call out to the nation to be mindful that this is a nation
"There are troops out there right now fighting for our freedom and our
security," she said. "When they go, they leave behind families.
The first lady extended the opportunity to help military families to the rest of
the nation, whether they live in military communities or not.
"It's incumbent upon us as a nation to look in our schools and figure out which
child has parents that's deployed and be aware of that and be conscious of
that," she said. "It's incumbent upon us to look in our own backyards to our
neighbors and to figure out who's out there serving our country, and what kind
of support that they need. We need to make sure, as a community, that we're
coming together around those families."
Article and photos by Reginald Rogers
Fort Bragg public affairs office
American Forces Press Service
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