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Remarks by the First Lady on Joining Forces Call with Military Family Support Personnel

September 03, 2014

MRS. OBAMA: Oh, thanks so much, Bradley. Hello, everyone. Thank you all for taking time to join us on this call today.

Let me start by once again thanking Bradley Cooper for not just that very kind introduction but for his outstanding work on this issue. He has just been incredible. He has a very busy schedule, but he's taken the time -- I think he's even out of the country -- to be on this call. And he and his team have just shown the level of passion and focus, and we're so grateful for his work and for joining us today.

I also want to thank Steve Parker for his leadership as the Executive Director of Joining Forces. We're very thrilled to have him on our team. He is a great spokesperson. As he said, he's a devoted father. He's just dealing with a move and the first day of kindergarten, as he told me. So you all know what he's going through. But we're grateful for his leadership.

And finally, most of all, I want to thank all of you for everything you're doing to support military families across this country. You all are there for these families from the moment they set foot on your bases. And you're doing so much for them, everything from helping them enroll their kids in school and in childcare to finding doctors and dentists, churches, carpools.

You plan countless events each year -– Mother's Day teas, Thanksgiving meals, holiday parties -- to bring people together when their spouses are far from home. And when folks are struggling, when their child is in trouble, or their spouse has been injured, or they're just having a tough day, you all are there with a referral, with some good advice, or maybe just a shoulder to cry on. And many of you aren't even getting paid for the work that you do, but you are truly the safety net for our military families.

You all know what's going on -- really going on -- in people's lives, and you reach folks exactly where they are. And that's why our military families trust you all so much, and they turn to you for guidance and support when they need it. And that's especially true for families with servicemembers who are making that transition back to civilian life.

As you all know, those transitions aren't always easy. While our troops are incredibly happy to be back home, often their families can't even begin to understand what they've been through. They might be struggling with the loss of someone in their unit. They might be rocked by memories of explosions and firefights. They might be dealing with survivors' guilt, wondering why they made it when others didn't.

And while the majority of our troops return home with few or no mental health issues at all, it's understandable that some of them struggle with issues like PTSD and TBI and depression. These are natural, normal responses to what they've been through. They are not signs of weakness -- they're signs of being human. But too often, our troops don't get the help they need because they're embarrassed or because they don't want to burden anyone. But as you all know, that doesn't just make it harder for them, it makes it harder for their families, sometimes straining marriages and affecting children who don't know how to cope with a parent who is struggling. And that's really where all of you come in.

You all are the ones who can reach out to families and let them know how to get help for their servicemembers and for themselves. And that's really why we wanted to bring you all together on this call today -- not just to say thank you, but also to make sure you have the information you need to do your jobs.

So today, you're going to be hearing about all the resources that are available to you not just on mental health, but on employment and all the things we're doing through our Joining Forces initiative, and so much more. And as you all are telling military families about these new resources -- and more of our troops, veterans and families are getting the support they need -- as Bradley said, it's important to know you all are going to be creating a ripple effect throughout our society.

Because when people see the bravest, most heroic people in our country speaking up about their mental health challenges and getting treatment, that sends a real message. It shows people that getting help is a sign of strength, and it helps erase the stigma that sometimes surround these issues. And that could be literally helpful to hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of people in this country who will finally get the mental health care they need and deserve.

So I want to end today as I started, by saying thank you. Thank you for everything you're doing for our military families and for our entire country. My husband and I, we are so grateful to all of you and we look forward to continuing our work together in the months and years ahead to serve our troops, veterans and military families as well as they have served this country.

And with that, it is now my pleasure to turn things over to two outstanding experts from the Department of Defense. You're going to hear from Barbara Thompson, who is the Director of Family Child Youth and Special Needs Policy, and Dave Julian, who is the Senior Advisor for Military, Community Family Policy. They are two very concerned, focused and engaged individuals. We're grateful for all the work that they do, and I know that they have so much to share with all of you today.

So once again, I will thank you all so much. And God bless you.

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady on Joining Forces Call with Military Family Support Personnel Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320098

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