By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2013 – Lauding Americans’ increased outpouring to service members, their families and veterans, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, have vowed to continue leading the Joining Forces initiative during the next four years with a goal of creating a national culture of appreciation and support.
The mission of Joining Forces is “to rally this nation to support our military families to make sure that we are supporting them – our troops and our veterans – as well as they have supported us,” Obama said during an exclusive interview with Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Josh Hauser, a Pentagon Channel correspondent.
“Our belief is that everyone can do something,” she said. “And we have seen the country step up in ways big and small.”
Joining Forces has mobilized every sector of society by encouraging employers to hire veterans and military family members, promoting efforts to cut through red tape to transfer professional licenses as military spouses move between states with their loved ones, and giving teachers the tools to help military children, the first lady noted.
“People have really reached out, and we have gotten such great response. We feel pretty good about that,” Biden said. “And we are going to continue this for the next four years – to keep pushing that and plugging away. … We hope this continues in our culture for years to come.”
As they prepared to kick off the presidential inauguration weekend by hosting a tribute to military families Jan. 19, Obama and Biden told Hauser they’ve seen increasing understanding among the American people of the contributions and sacrifices service members and their families make every day.
“There is growing appreciation, but I think there is still more work to do,” Obama said. “We want to keep shining that spotlight.”
Recognizing the end of U.S. military operations in Iraq and the drawdown in Afghanistan, the first lady said support for service members, veterans and military families is more important than ever.
“That is not when it ends. That is when it begins,” Obama said. “Because as families are making that transition to civilian life, it is going to be more important than ever before for us to show them how valued they are to us – and not just in words, but in deeds.”
Obama and Biden said they are struck as they meet with military families by their strength and resilience, and the maturity and adaptability of military children.
“They are learning to juggle responsibilities, dealing with their emotions and dealing with the highs and lows of life in very stressful, emotional conditions,” she said. “And they are succeeding. They are successful, smart, bright young people.”
The skills they are learning now will give them a leg up when they face other challenges in life, and an appreciation of the tradition of service that has made America great, Obama said.
“Our military kids are the best that the country has to offer. So we want to make sure they know this, and they can talk about their skills in a positive way,” she said. “And we want to make sure the country can appreciate and understand the uniqueness that these kids bring to any task, to any group, to any situation, so that we embrace that.”