Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady and Dr. Biden to the Base Community at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

April 13, 2011

DR. BIDEN: Good morning. I'm Jill Biden and I am a proud military mom. I'm delighted to be back here at Camp Lejeune, and I'm especially fortunate to be here today with General Dunford and Bonnie Amos, wife of the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Looking out at this crowd of Marines and their amazing families, one word comes to mind: Oo-rah!


DR. BIDEN: I love that. (Laughter.)

When I visited two years ago, I was struck by what an amazing community you have here. I've had the honor of spending precious time with some of the Marines and family members of the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion who were about to deploy to Afghanistan.

I shared their pride, their concern and even their tears. And as always, it was the mothers who sought me out. They knew that I understood the powerful mix of emotions they were feeling at that moment.

As I greeted the mother of a young Marine, she gave me a tight hug. I encouraged her to hang in there, hang in there. And in that strong way only a Blue Star mom could, she said something to me I'll never forget. She said, "Every day. Every day."

I understood exactly what she meant because my son, Beau, has been a member of the Delaware Army National Guard for the last 10 years. In 2009, he served a year in Iraq. I'm very proud of him, but I also know how tough it can be when a family member is in a war zone thousands of miles away. I know how much you worry. I know how much you pray.

So to each of you and to your families, please accept our heartfelt thanks for your service to our nation.

While I was here, I also had the privilege of visiting the Wounded Warrior Battalion where I met injured Marines whose overriding concern was when they could return to their units. And while we can never repay these brave soldiers for their sacrifice, we can and must always make sure that we never forget them.

And I visited some dedicated students at Coastal Community College just down the road -- students like Julia Frost who in addition to being a former active duty Marine and a wife of a current Marine, was taking courses to become a teacher.

Every person I met demonstrated that you are real heroes, servicemembers and families alike, from the moms and dads who keep your families together while your loved ones are serving overseas, to the grandparents who step in with much needed support, to the children who are so strong and brave while their mom or dad is away from home.

You go about your business every day, lifting up your communities, volunteering at your schools, lending a hand to your neighbors. And you do it all while carrying a heavier burden than most folks can imagine. You are truly remarkable.

And you are not doing it alone. The people in the surrounding Lejeune community who are supporting our troops and their families are showing all Americans that there are countless ways to help -- some large and many small, but all are important.

And I can tell you, from personal experience, all appreciate it. We can all join forces.

That's why the First Lady and I are here today, because we need all Americans to support our military families the way you do it here.

With that, I'd like to introduce my dear friend, my Joining Forces partner, and our amazing First Lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama. (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you all. Thanks so much. (Applause.) Thank you. And thank you, Jill. I am so grateful to have such a magnificent friend and partner in Jill. She's just been amazing in so many ways. And I am grateful, grateful.

I also want to recognize General Dunford; Major General Jensen; Mrs. Bonnie Amos, the wife of the Commandant of the Marine Corps; Mrs. Liz Kent, the wife of the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. I also want to recognize Senator Kay Hagan who is here with us today. Please, Kay, stand, because she flew all the way back here from Washington to be here. (Applause.) And I am so grateful to Kay for all her support. And of course North Carolina's First Gentleman Bob Eaves, as well, thank you so much for taking the time to be here. (Applause.) And thank you for your work on behalf of the military and their families.

And of course, I want to thank all of you -- all of you -- here at Camp Lejeune.

Now, the stories like the ones that Jill told are exactly why we're here today. We can't tell you how much it has meant to us to have the chance to meet all of you, to hear your stories, and quite frankly to steal a few hugs from your kids, because they're all so cute! It's usually the best part of the visit.

All of you -– the Marines, the Sailors, the spouses, the children, the grandparents and everyone else out there –- you all are incredible. You all are incredible. Your strength and spirit inspire me every single day. And I mean that. And I'm so thankful that I've had the opportunity to learn from so many of you over the past few years.

No matter whether it's been meeting with soldiers and families at Fort Bragg or other military bases, or sitting down at policy meetings with your commanders, or seeing the courage of our wounded warriors in hospitals all over this great nation, or feeling the strength of the families of one of our fallen heroes, you all have opened your arms, you've opened your hearts. You've shown me what being in a military family is all about.

And I know that every single member of a military family is serving this country, whether you're wearing fatigues or whether you're wearing hospital scrubs or a business suit or an elementary school uniform.

For all of you out there who might be spouses or moms or dads, I know that you're doing it all. I know that you're cooking breakfast before dawn. I know that you're shuffling the kids off to school and heading off to work for a full day yourself.

I know that you're trying to balance your own career. Many of you are hitting the books, trying to complete your own degrees at the same time.

I know that you're getting your kids off to their Little League teams, helping them with their school projects, hosting birthday parties.

And while all of this is enough to fill any family's plate, yours is also full of so much more. It includes everything that comes with having a family member in the military. And America needs to know.

With each move, you know that means yet another school for your kids. You know it means another new job for yourselves.

With each deployment, you run your household by yourself and you watch as your kids grow up just a little bit faster because mom or dad is away.

And night after night, you pray, you pray that the next newscast or the next knock on the door will bring only good news.

And you do it all with such dignity, with such grace that most Americans don't even realize what you're going through.

Military families are so good at keeping everything together that it's almost like you're wearing camouflage, even though you're not the ones on the battlefield. People can't always see your special brand of service because you don't wear it on your sleeve.

Take Tanya Queiro, for instance, from right here at Camp Lejeune. A Marine for 12 years herself, Tanya is married to another Marine who's still on active duty. Together, they have three kids between the ages of 10 and 14. And she's pursuing a doctorate in organizational psychology. She works full-time as a human resource specialist, while also volunteering as a mentor to other military spouses. And she's done it all through at least eight of her husband's deployments, which last more than six months at a time.

But even with all these achievements and contributions, do you know what Tanya says? And these are her words. She says, "I don't think I'm a super-woman and I don't think I really do anything extra-ordinary."

And that's just it. That's just it. Your ordinary is extraordinary. Your ordinary is extraordinary for anyone.

And that's why Jill and I are here today. We want everyone in this country to know just how extraordinary military families are.

And that's why we've launched the Joining Forces campaign. Now, this is a nationwide effort to bring Americans together to recognize, honor and serve our nation's military families. And we're going to focus on the things that military families like yours have told us that you care about most; things like employment and education and wellness and mental health. These are the issues military spouses brought up as we've been traveling around the country. They're the concerns we've heard from troops who just want to make sure their families are taken care of when they're deployed.

And so we've put out a call; a call to action to every sector of our society so that everyone mobilizes to do what we can to make a real commitment to support military families like yours.

And our motto is simple: Everyone can do something. Everyone can do something. Everyone can ask themselves, "What can I do to give back to these families that have given our country so much?"

And I am pleased that Americans of all kinds are already stepping up to answer that call. And you all should know that. People are excited to help. They're pumped up.

We're joining forces across the federal government. My husband directed his federal agency -- all of them; not just the Departments of Defense and the VA, but all of them, to identify ways that they could make life easier for all of you. And in January, they came back with nearly 50 commitments –- everything from improving access to mental health care and childcare, to helping spouses and veterans find jobs.

We're joining forces with businesses and non-profit organizations across the country. Companies like Sears, and Kmart and Sam's Club, they've promised us that if a military spouse who works at their stores has to move to a new duty station, they'll do their best to have a job waiting for those spouses.

Siemens told us that they'll set aside 10 percent of their open positions for veterans.

The SCORE Foundation and partners like Wal-Mart, and Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft said that they'll provide materials and services to 16,000 veterans and spouses to help them start successful small businesses.

Reach Out and Read will distribute 400,000 books to military kids.

The PTA and the Military Child Education Coalition have committed to help schools across the country better understand the unique challenges that military children face.

And let me tell you, the list goes on and on and on. And after today's launch, we've gotten even more calls from more businesses and more non-profits across this country.

We're joining forces with individuals and communities, so that each of us finds our own way to serve the military families who are our neighbors and our co-workers and our classmates, because mostly, this is about joining forces with you. We want to make sure that these commitments make a real difference in your lives.

And this isn't going to be a one-way street, because we really need to hear back from you so that we can keep finding ways to work together and lighten the load for our military families. We need to hear from you. This doesn't matter if it's not hitting you where you live. So we're going to need to know.

And that's something that all of you here in Jacksonville know a whole lot about, stepping up in a community, because the military and civilian communities here have been joining forces for decades. We're here because this is a model of what can happen.

I've heard about how the Beirut Memorial outside of town was built. I've heard about how, in the face of a tragedy, the citizens and businesses of Jacksonville came together to raise funds and gather donations in order to honor our fallen heroes and their families.

And in the decades since that time, this community's commitment has never wavered. That's what I've been told.

To this day, this community is holding fish fries and selling hot dogs out of backs of trucks to raise money for military causes. I hear that the local businesses here give donations to military families in need. The car dealerships sponsor scholarships for kids of Marines. I know that the YMCA here has worked with your schools on programming to help children adjust to the transitions of military life.

And I know that your own young people are getting involved in very special ways, like 17-year-old Margaret Rochon, who was honored as one of the nation's military children of the year just last week. I got to meet her. Very special young woman.

Margaret single-handedly convinced six nationally recognized experts to come lead a seminar for some of your schoolteachers about the effects of PTSD on military families. This young girl did this. Now it's part of the formal annual training for teachers in Onslow County, I'm told. And she did it all while volunteering more than 500 hours right here in this community. That's what Margaret did. And she's a kid.

So, all these stories -- and there are so many more -- all these stories are beautiful. They're inspiring. And they show something very important. They show the rest of the nation that you don't have to be the First Lady of the United States, you don't have to be a CEO, you don't have to be a General to get involved in this effort.

And that's exactly what we want to accomplish with Joining Forces. Our goal is for every community in America to feel like this one feels. This is the model -- for every school to understand the challenges of being a military child. We want every business to do something, to do anything, to show their support; for community groups, and faith communities, and individuals to take every step they can so that military families know that they never have to go it alone.

And we want to make sure that these commitments last, no matter who the President is, who controls Congress, no matter if we're in a time of war or in a time of peace, because the truth is, showing our gratitude to those who serve this nation, whether they're on the battlefield or right here at home, is something that every single one of us, as an American, can and should get behind.

This is something that we all can believe in –- as neighbors, as community members, but most importantly, as Americans.

So I truly hope that this initiative makes a real impact in your lives. I really hope it does. And I hope that this is worthy of the strength and the service and the commitment that your families demonstrate every single day. That is our hope.

And so to all of you here, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for setting that example for the rest of us. And thank you for being so extraordinary.

May God bless you all, and may God bless the United States of America. Thank you. (Applause.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady and Dr. Biden to the Base Community at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320528

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