First Lady Calls on Nation to Support Military Families
(May 16, 2010)
WASHINGTON, May 12, 2010 – First Lady Michelle Obama issued
a national challenge today to all sectors of American
society: mobilize and take action to support and engage
“One percent of Americans may be fighting our wars, but we
need 100 percent of Americans to support them and their
families,” the first lady said. “This has to be all hands on
deck. This is a challenge to government.”
The first lady made this call to action during her remarks
to the National Military Family Association's summit: “When
Parents Deploy: Understanding the Experiences of Military
Children and Spouses.”
“We know that our military families are some of the most
patriotic, some of the most dedicated, the most
service-oriented Americans you will ever meet,” she said.
“But we also know ... that these strong families are being
tested like never before.”
President Barack Obama and his administration have made
military families a priority, she noted, with increased pay
and benefits as well as increased funding for military
housing and child care and spouse counseling and career
development. The Family and Medical Leave Act also has been
extended to more military families and caregivers, she
The budget for next year is slated to continue to strengthen
military family support programs, the first lady said.
“And last week, my husband signed into law legislation that
many of you fought for – expanding veterans' health care and
giving unprecedented support to caretakers,” she said.
Within the Defense Department, the first lady lauded the
leadership of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen for the
progress made in military family programs.
Still, much work remains to be done to better understand how
to serve military families, she said.
To that end, the Defense Department has launched the
Military Family Life Project, the first lady said, a
landmark study of more than 100,000 spouses and
servicemembers that is slated to launch this month. This
survey will assess families' quality of life to give
officials a better sense of how families are experiencing
deployments and improve the support provided to them.
Spouses and servicemembers, selected at random from all
services, will be invited via mail to participate in the
online survey, defense officials said.
“I want to encourage all the spouses who were selected to
fully participate in this project, because the more that
this nation knows about your priorities, the more we can do
to meet them,” Obama said.
Along with the federal government, Obama extended her
challenge to encompass state and local governments “whose
services touch military families in so many ways.” The
Interstate Compact that eases the school transfer process
for military children has been adopted by 30 states, she
noted as an example.
“And we are going to need the other 20 states to help by
adopting it too,” she said.
In the private sector, businesses large and small also can
make a difference, the first lady said.
“Maybe it's offering services, pro bono, to a military
family or veteran,” she suggested. “Maybe it's helping a
military spouse or a veteran develop their job skills and
find a job. Maybe it's hiring them – because you know the
discipline and dedication needed to succeed in the military
are the same traits that any business would want in their
Obama encouraged community-based organizations to continue
their work on behalf of military families, pointing out the
contributions of organizations such as Sierra Club, which
partnered with the National Military Family Association to
create Operation Purple summer camps for military children.
“There are so many organizations with skills and interests
that can be shared with military families and we need to get
them involved,” she said.
In communities, Obama called on people to reach out to
military families, particularly those living far from
military installations. Even in communities without a base,
people can find ways to reach out, she said, and many
partnerships are waiting to be forged.
The first lady pointed out a national network that she and
Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, launched
last Veterans Day. Mission Serve brings civilian and
military service groups together not only to help support
Military and their families, but to encourage
communities to use the talents and skills of military
families and veterans, she said.
From a federal government leader to a next-door neighbor,
her challenge ultimately extends to all Americans, she said.
“Everyone can do something, whether it's reaching out to a
local family or supporting an organization serving families
or sharing your skills or being a voice in your community or
just saying, ‘Thank you,'” she said. “Even small things send
a big message.”
It may take time to come to fruition, Obama said, “but if
Americans respond to this challenge, if we mobilize every
segment of society, if we work together, if we hold
ourselves to the same high standard of excellence that our
military families live by every day, then I know we can
succeed,” she said. “I know we can realize our vision of an
America that truly supports and engages our military
families not just now, but for decades to come.
“And I can promise you this today, this will remain one of
my defining missions as first lady,” she added.
By Elaine Wilson|
American Forces Press Service
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