Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady and Dr. Biden at a Joining Forces Military Family Cookout in Concord, New Hampshire

July 24, 2011

DR. BIDEN: Hello. Thank you, General Reddell, for that warm introduction. And thank you and your wonderful wife, Becky, for all you're doing, for your support of the New Hampshire National Guard & Reserve families. We are delighted to be here and appreciate your hosting us today. Thank you.

And good afternoon everyone! It's great to see so many Guard Members, reservists, family members, and friends of the Guard. I want to also recognize the Gold Star families who are here with us today.

I am Jill Biden, and I am proud to stand here this afternoon as a military mom. Like you, I come from a small state with a strong National Guard that has shouldered a tremendous burden over the past decade.

My son, Beau, is a Captain in the Delaware Army National Guard and he recently spent a year in Iraq, so I know well the challenges that Guard families face when their soldiers are away. And I also know how much it means when communities rally around family members who are managing in their soldier's absence.

The First Lady and I came here today for a very simple reason: to say thank you to all of you for all of your service. You and your family -- service members around the country and the world inspire us with your strength and your resilience, and that applies especially to the family members of all ages who are here today.

The First Lady and I are working hard through our "Joining Forces" initiative to make sure that every American understands the sacrifices that each of you as family members are making for the security of our nation.

And we hope to inspire more communities around the country to reach out to military families like we are doing tonight in Concord and like I saw in Portsmouth later today -- earlier today.

We've seen some incredible examples of Americans helping out with childcare for military families, lending a hand with accounting during tax season, and hosting baby showers for expectant military moms, and we want to formally applaud these efforts.

In fact, I'm excited to share tonight that the First Lady and I are launching the Joining Forces Community Challenge, which will recognize individuals and groups around the country who are making a difference in the lives of military families.

We are really excited about this program and hope you will go to our website at joiningforces.gov to learn how you can nominate a group or an individual who has come up with a creative or innovative way to make life a little easier for our military families. The idea can be large or small, new or old, as long as it demonstrates in some way the tremendous gratitude all of us feel for our military families.

Every American has the ability to make a difference in the life of a military family. That's what our Joining Forces initiative is all about.

And now it's my honor and privilege to introduce a woman who is a tireless and devoted advocate for our service members, veterans, and military families, my dear friend and our wonderful First Lady Michelle Obama. (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you all so much. (Applause.) Thank you. How are you guys doing? Food good? Have you eaten yet? Good steak. (Laughter.) Oh, awesome. Can we give the steak a hand? I mean, come on, good stuff. (Applause.) I only had two bites, but I guarantee you after this I'm having some more.

It is great to be back in New Hampshire. And I want to thank Jill for that very kind introduction. Jill has been just a tremendous partner in crime in this effort. She's a true champion of our men and women in uniform and a singular voice for National Guard and Reserve issues, both inside and outside of the White House, so I would like to give her a round of applause, too. Yay. (Applause.)

And also I want to recognize General Reddell and, again, everyone from The Meat House for donating all the delicious food, and of course, I want to thank all of you for being here today.

I know we have a lot of different folks represented here. We've got folks from the National Guard, we have people from the Army Reserves, the Navy Reserves. I know we have some members of Gold Star families here, as well. I know we have moms and dads both in uniform and out of uniform. And of course we've got a lot of kids, who are probably tired of sitting down and listening to grown-ups, right? I hear that's a Bouncy House, though. Is there a Bouncy House? Do you want to be bouncing in the Bouncy House? (Laughter.) I say, go for it. (Laughter.) Oh, Dad said no. Never mind. (Laughter.) I tried, tried to get you out of there.

So I'm not going to talk long, because Jill and I are going to spend time going table to table, hopefully getting to meet you -- and him, him especially. (Laughter.)

But the reason why we're here, as Jill mentioned, is that we have a very simple message, and that is to say: Thank you. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for everything that you have done for our country.

And unlike Jill I didn't grow up in a military household. But as I've traveled this country, visiting military bases and communities and hospitals, I have seen firsthand just what it means to be part of a military family. You guys are serious. You all are doing phenomenal things that we want this entire country to know.

You are moms who are trying to build careers while taking night classes. You're dads who coach Little Leagues and who help out with projects in your own communities. You all are teenagers who study hard and take on extra responsibilities when dad or mom is serving overseas.

All of you are perfect examples of the 9/11 Generation. You've gone through unprecedented deployments. You've helped to defend our security through a decade of war. And you've strengthened our country not just as National Guardsmen and Reservists, but as teachers and as firefighters and businessmen and women, as well.

You represent the very best of America –- a devotion to family, to community, and to country. And I just want to tell you that Jill and I could not be more inspired by all of you.

You all are the reasons why Jill and I have launched this nationwide initiative that we're calling Joining Forces because we want this entire country to recognize, and honor, and support our military members and their families. We want you to know that this country has your back.

And we've been traveling across the country, talking to the heads of large businesses and nonprofit organizations, working the levers of government, raising public awareness about what you do and how you sacrifice.

And we're not just putting on some press conferences in front of a logo. I mean, for us this is not just a show. We're working hard to take meaningful steps that make a real difference for you and for your families, because we have learned, whether it's firsthand or from the stories you've told us, how hard it can be when a military family is called to move from base to base or city to city. It means a new job search for your spouse, it means entirely new friends for your kids, it means a whole new routine for your entire family.

And we know that it only makes things tougher when you're also trying to update your professional license to get in line with your new state's requirements, or you're wrangling with a school district to make sure that your kids' previous credits count at their new school.

So we're trying to get rid of those headaches for you. That's one of the things that Joining Forces is trying to do. We're working with state governments and the Department of Defense to make sure that when you're transferred your professional licenses and certifications are transferred, too, in every single state. We're also working to do the same thing for your kids' courses and transcripts, because our troops and their families serve our whole country, not just one state at a time.

And with Joining Forces, we're working on all types of issues that affect your lives, like employment and job training for military spouses, things like better classes for your children consistently across the country, and most importantly reducing the stigma around mental health issues.

And so far, I am proud to say that the response has been incredible. Everyone that we have spoken to wants to get involved. From the federal government, to our most successful businesses and nonprofit organizations, to the countless individuals who are making a difference in their own neighborhoods, Americans of all kinds are stepping up to make a difference for our military families.

And we're not done. We are not even close. We have only just begun. We're going to keep pushing on tough, complicated issues that you've probably been struggling with for years and years. We're going to keep bringing more people and more businesses and more organizations into the fold.

And we want to hear from all of you -- even if it's as simple as we go around -- we want to hear from you about how we can do this most effectively. And when we're gone we want to continue to hear from you, either through the General or from your resource support centers. We want to know that what we're doing is actually having impact for you on the ground. Let us know how we can find new ways to be helpful. Let us know how we can improve this initiative so that it is really something that matters to you and to your families. We want to make sure that we're making a difference in your lives. We want to make sure that this is something that you feel.

So I want to make a deal with you. You all keep doing what you're doing, just being outstanding, just being the best that America can be, keep setting an example for the rest of the country, and we'll keep working to make sure that this initiative lives up to the standard that you all have set.

So thank you again. We are proud of you. We want America to know your stories, to know your challenges, to know your successes, because you make us all proud.

So thank you all, and God bless, and we'll get out there and come and shake some hands. And kids, go play! Can they -- they can play, they can play. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady and Dr. Biden at a Joining Forces Military Family Cookout in Concord, New Hampshire Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320485

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