Ever since President Obama was elected in 2008, the First Lady has dedicated herself to helping to strengthen families in various ways. She has tackled the child obesity issue head on, spearheading efforts to reconnect kids and parents with healthy, sustainable nutrition and sensible exercise programs. She has also become an ever more outspoken advocate for taking good care of the military service personnel who take such good care of our country’s citizens and keep America safe. First Lady Michelle Obama has been quoted as saying, “I want to send a very clear message to the men and women who are wearing — or who have worn — our country’s uniform and to their spouses: when you have finished your service to our nation, you’ve got 2,000 great American companies ready and waiting to bring you on board.” She continues to take new steps to offer greater support resources to active duty and reserves military personnel, veterans, their spouses and families on a daily basis.
Ongoing Dialogues to Determine Critical Needs
Rather than simply assuming what military families might want or need, First Lady Michelle Obama began her efforts by engaging in ongoing dialogues with military service persons, veterans, spouses and families to determine what they actually need. These dialogues continue as the First Lady continues to participate in meetings and hear stories about how to help military families.
Support for Other Organizations That Serve Military Families
There are many nonprofit organizations in America that are chartered to serve the needs of military personnel, veterans and their families. Some of these organizations offer educational or job assistance while others offer vocational training, volunteer opportunities, individual and group support and counseling. The First Lady is also a dedicated supporter of Blue Star Families, an organization that regularly polls military families about their needs and shares the survey results with the President and First Lady. One of the many outcomes of these surveys has been a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts and Blue Star Families to inaugurate a program called Blue Star Museum Visits, which gives free museum entrance to military families at more than 2,000 museums nationwide.
Volunteer Opportunities for Veterans to Give Back
The First Lady has actively encouraged veterans to give of their time and share the unique skills only military experience can provide. Through the “Serve” program, the First Lady seeks to help returning military successfully navigate the transition from military service to civilian life by getting them plugged in through various volunteer service opportunities. She has stated, “Only 1 percent of Americans may be serving in uniform, but each of us has a role to play in supporting our troops and their families.”
Another great way that President and First Lady Obama are working together to support military families is through increased efforts to provide educational assistance for returning to college, vocational or trade schools and other civilian educational and job preparation opportunities. Military and military dependent scholarships offer military service persons, veterans, their spouses and families the opportunity to live out the American dream by improving their lives through higher education, which can enhance their military skills and training and help them advance towards their career goals.
Employment Program: “Joining Forces”
In 2011, President and First Lady Obama inaugurated “Joining Forces,” a nationwide effort to encourage employers to hire 100,000 unemployed veterans and their spouses by year-end 2013. As of mid-year 2013, America has responded in force to hire nearly triple this number — 290,000 to date — and companies nationwide show no signs of ceasing their efforts. In fact, they have committed to train and hire 435,000 additional veterans and veteran spouses over the next five years. “Joining Forces” is one of the most significant contributions the First Lady has made to the wellbeing of America’s military and veterans and their families.
With the First Lady’s help, the entire nation is transforming into a community that supports and upholds the irreplaceable value active duty military, veterans, their spouses and families contribute to the country they serve.
Image From Flickr’s Creative Commons by Official U.S. Navy Imagery
About the Author: Laura Jernovsky is a military mom to three. She and her civilian husband are very involved in advocating for more support services for military families, especially for spouses and children.