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Joining Forces: America's Leading Moms Campaign for Military Families

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The month of May gives Americans two special days to honor the service of men and women who serve and have served in the nation’s military. Armed Forces Day is observed on May 21st is to show appreciation for all service members and Memorial Day, a federal holiday is observed on the last Monday of May when the country pays tribute to those who gave their lives in U.S. wars.

First Lady Michelle Obama and the Vice President’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, are calling for Americans to do something more meaningful this year than marking May 21 and May 30 with ceremonies, tributes and parades. They are on a mission to generate visible and lasting support for military families, especially those who have loved ones fighting overseas.

“We know that the country cares. But we need to make the connection between those feelings and connect them to the families so that they feel the support,” says first lady Obama in a Joining Forces video on the White House web site. Joining Forces,a national initiative the First Lady and Dr. Biden launched in April, is aimed at mobilizing people from every neighborhood and business in every state to do much more than talk about respecting the country’s warriors.· 

"So that it’s not just a conversation. That it’s a call to action, ‘Hey, support the military family.’ I think that is what Joining Forces is all about,” Dr. Biden adds in the video. The White House describes·the initiative as a comprehensive effort to provide “service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned.”

The two women are traveling to communities and military bases around the country to recognize military families and the groups already taking action. Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden speak passionately about the husbands, wives, siblings, grandparents, children, and friends who cope with the long deployments and other challenges of having a loved one in the military.

In an appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," Mrs. Obama explained why she is so impressed with military families when she said, “Their strength. Their pride. Their courage. Their willingness to sacrifice without complaint moves me every single time. Whenever I’m feeling bad, feeling sorry for myself, I suck it up because of these families.”

Statistics from a 2009 Department of Defense report put the number of active duty men and women at more than 1.4 million. Another 853,581 are serving in the Reserve and Guard.The number of  military family members, including  spouses, children and adult dependents, is more than 3 million. They are the Americans shouldering the responsibility of taking care of the home front while loved ones serve their country and risk their lives.

Dr. Biden’s oldest son, Beau, served in Iraq before returning to take on the duties of attorney general in Delaware. She and Mrs. Obama bonded with military families and organizations they came in contact with during the 2008 presidential campaign. They talk about some of the inspiration behind Joining Forces in the April 24 issue of Parade magazine.

“Everywhere I went there were military spouses, and their stories took my breath away---the pain of multiple deployments, trying to keep the family afloat. I remember crying with a group of them,” says the first lady.

The two women are united in the effort to get more Americans actively involved in the employment, education and wellness needs of military families.

“And then do what you do best. If you’re an accountant, think about offering pro bono services. If you’re a teacher, maybe offer tutoring to military kids,” Dr. Biden says in the Parade magazine interview. “We want to encourage people to be creative and not feel they have to develop a whole other expertise.”

Getting involved in the Joining Forces campaign is one way to give more meaning to Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day. However, the first lady and Dr. Biden are not looking for a short-term commitment. They say in Parade magazine they hope the initiative will never end.

“Our hope is that this becomes part of the fabric of our country forever,” says Mrs. Obama.

“A way of life, really,” says Dr. Biden.

You can find out more·about Joining Forces online along with information on organizations respected for their work with military families.

 

 

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