Remarks by Second Lady Jill Biden at the 2009 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award Ceremony

September 17, 2009

[As Prepared for Delivery]

Good evening and thank you.

I can't tell you how happy I am to be here tonight.

I am proud to be here as the Second Lady of the United States, but I am even more proud to be here as the mother of a National Guardsman serving in Iraq for the past year.

Tonight is personal for me – as it is for each of you. I look across the room and though I have only met a few of you, I feel as though we are family. We share the same concerns, the anxieties, the sense of duty, and the pride that comes along with being a military family. Like all of you gathered here tonight, my family worries about our son and looks forward to the day he comes back home to us. Our family also knows what a difference it makes when people reach out to show support, whether in school, in the neighborhood, or in the workplace.

So I am here tonight as a proud Blue Star mom, but I am also here on behalf of the President and Mrs. Obama, and my husband Joe who could not be here because he is visiting with our troops in Iraq.

Tonight I'd like:

  • To commend those who are serving in the Guard and Reserve for your courage, your patriotism, and your commitment to this country,
  • To commend those family members here tonight because you are all making your own personal sacrifice for our country,
  • And to commend especially those employers being recognized tonight – each and every one of you provides exceptional support to our Guard and Reserve soldiers and their families. You manage workplaces in ways that enable our citizen soldiers to concentrate on completing their missions – and for that, we owe you our heartfelt thanks.

In a challenging economic climate, you have gone above and beyond the requirements of the law to truly support our military members and their families. You have taken the extra steps by extending full pay to deployed personnel, by continuing health and education benefits to service members and their families.

You have supported your employees throughout every stage of the process by organizing deployment events and welcome-home parties, sending care packages to your employees while they are overseas, initiating clothing and toy drives for children in Iraq, and countless other acts.

Each of you organizations being honored tonight has done remarkable work:

  • You have organized colleagues to visit Walter Reed Army hospital to cook dinner for wounded warriors.
  • You have honored your uniformed staff members with video taped messages and public events.
  • You have kept families engaged by inviting them to company functions while their loved one's are serving – giving them holiday gifts, offering to babysit, and in one case, helping with the reconstruction of a home that was in need of repair.
  • You have encouraged your entire staffs to volunteer and do service for military family members.

These actions speak volumes to those who serve, to their families, and to the communities at large.

In reading one of the Award Nominations, I was struck by the following comments from an Air National Guardsman who wrote about his experience:

And I quote:

"I am honored and privileged to serve my country as a uniformed member, I am equally honored and privileged, indeed blessed, to have found an employer who takes her service to her country as seriously as I do….the level of involvement and support guarantees I have the tools and resources to do my job, both here and while deployed."

As this story exemplifies, your deep commitment to your employees who serve this nation, makes it possible for our service members to focus on their missions. Hundreds of thousands of our brave citizen soldiers are serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other regions– and they also remain crucial to the disaster relief and humanitarian efforts at home and around the globe. Half of our nation's military strength resides in the National Guard and Reserve – it's impossible to overstate their importance to our national security.

As everyone here tonight knows, Members of the National Guard and Reserve face unique challenges as they balance the demands of their military service with their responsibilities at home. Guard and Reserve members depend on their families, their communities, and their employers to maintain their livelihoods while they are serving our country.

And in this era when so much is being asked of the Guard and Reserve, you have been a source of strength, relieving some of the burden of stress on loved ones left behind. You have responded to their evolving demands as they serve their country in new ways. And you have responded to the needs of their families, their coworkers, and their communities.

There are so many ways that every American can lend a hand to this effort. In the past few years I've worked with an organization called Delaware Boots on the Ground which started as a group of military moms and spouses who came together to support our Delaware National Guard members and their families. Delaware Boots on the Ground engages the community, and performs simple acts of service for deployed soldiers and their families.

I've seen firsthand the power of these efforts. Each of us has the ability to make a difference in the life of a service member.

Those of you receiving awards tonight have made a difference: You have shown appreciation and support for our troops and their families, and you have raised awareness in your own communities of their sacrifices and duty. I want all of you to know that we are grateful for your special service and commitment to our Nation. You embody the ESGR's slogan "We all serve."

Tonight we celebrate your good works and we thank you for the powerful example you set for all Americans.

God bless all of you here who do so much to support our soldiers.

May God protect our troops.

Thank you.

Jill Biden, Remarks by Second Lady Jill Biden at the 2009 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award Ceremony Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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