First Lady, Dr. Biden Laud New Family Support Effort
By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2011 – First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, today lauded the government’s new military family support effort, calling it an “important next step” in the nation’s support of troops and their families.
Speaking from the White House earlier today, President Barack Obama unveiled a new, whole-of-government approach to military family support, with agencies uniting to create new resources and support programs for military families worldwide.
“I want to emphasize that this is not a one-time press conference,” the first lady said at the event attended by the Defense Department’s top brass and other senior government officials. “These are lasting commitments by the government to address your needs and concerns for years to come. And my hope is that these recommendations will live on no matter the president, no matter the party.”
Nearly a year ago, Mrs. Obama announced that the president had directed his Cabinet to identify new priorities and partnerships to support military families. The government answered today with nearly 50 specific commitments aimed at improving military families’ quality of life, she said.
Obama cited the Education Department as an example. The department is simplifying its financial aid application process for military families. And the Labor, Commerce and Defense departments and the Small Business Administration are working with the business community to expand career options for spouses, she said.
Additionally, the Health and Human Services, Education, Agriculture and Defense departments are working to expand child care options for families from all service branches.
“The list of commitments goes on and on,” the first lady said, “addressing everything from homelessness to mental health to employment opportunities for young adults. So this effort gives you all a seat at the table not just at the White House or at the Pentagon or at the [Veterans Affairs Department], it gives you a seat at the table all across the federal government.”
Today’s release of the review is not the end of the process, she added, but rather is the start of a long-term effort on behalf of military families.
“Don’t think for one minute that Jill and I will not keep pushing and advocating and fighting for you, because we will,” she said. “And we’re not going to stop until every part of our society -– every part, both inside and outside of government -– is fully mobilized to support our troops and their families.”
Obama said she’s met and spoken with many military family members worldwide, and the stories of their challenges and sacrifices resonate for her, not just as first lady but as a wife, a mother and an American.
She’s heard the stories of military moms who are raising children, volunteering in family readiness groups and sustaining careers, all in the midst of multiple moves. And she’s heard of teenagers shouldering additional responsibilities at home while a parent is deployed, and family members leaving jobs and schools to care for wounded loved ones.
All “are a reminder of what words like service, strength and sacrifice – what those words look like in real life,” the first lady said.
“And for me, and for Jill,” she continued, “they are a reminder of our obligation to our troops, our veterans, and their families -- an obligation to work harder [and] an obligation to channel the strength and courage of our military families and veterans into our work on their behalf.”
Obama emphasized that the effort not only is about understanding concerns, but also is about addressing them.
“Most of all, it’s about getting something done,” she said. “It’s about making real, lasting changes that make a real difference in your lives. After all the time I’ve spent with you, I know how much you deserve our government and our people’s support.”
As a military mother, Biden said, she knows all too well the “mixture of pride and concern” that military families share. Biden’s son, Beau Biden, is a captain in the Delaware Army National Guard who recently served a year in Iraq.
In every meeting with military families, Biden said, she and the first lady have been moved not just by the sacrifices family members are making, “but by your incredible spirit and commitment to America.”
As an educator, Biden said, she was especially pleased to see the efforts being made on behalf of children’s education, and heartened by initiatives that will be rolled out for Guard and Reserve families, which will help them with everything from sustaining businesses to supporting their reintegration after deployments.
“Today is an important next step in this administration’s commitment to support our [service members], their families and our members,” Biden said. “As long as we have the privilege and honor of serving in our roles, we will do whatever we can to support those who protect us.”