Remarks by the First Lady at the U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island Graduation Ceremony in Parris Island, South Carolina

June 30, 2023

[As prepared for delivery.]

Brigadier General Field, Sergeant Major Garcia, Lieutenant Colonel Kearney, thank you and Tonya and Alma for hosting us today. I'm grateful for all that you and your staff have done to make this visit possible.

Good morning, Marines!

My father, Donald Jacobs, the son of an Italian immigrant, joined the Navy three years after Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was just 17—not old enough to serve, and so he needed to get permission from his mom to enlist. He became a Signalman in the Pacific, and later, used the G.I. Bill to go to college.

His service defined his life. And it shaped mine as well—as I grew up in a middle-class suburb of Philly, going to watch the Blue Angels airshow in the summer and listening to military bands.

But I didn't understand the full measure of the decision he made to enlist until our son, Beau, followed in his footsteps so many years later.

I saw how strong the call of duty was inside him, just like it was for so many who saw us attacked on 9/11, how it gave him courage and conviction, despite the dangers of war that we witnessed on the news each night.

I saw how he drew strength from his sisters-and brothers-in-arms, how those deep bonds of friendship and love inspired and energized him.

I saw how his wife, Hallie, served in her own way, how his two children had to adapt when he was deployed to Iraq. His son, Hunter, was just a toddler, but his daughter, Natalie, was old enough to miss him every day.

The choice to serve your country—the choice each of you has made—is a sacred one. One of sacrifice and selflessness. One of pride and patriotism.

Thank you. And I hope that you're proud. Because we are—your instructors, your families, and your Commander in Chief.

The choice to be a part of this community will shape you in so many ways—will forge and form the path of your life—as well as the lives of your families. And that choice is the foundation of our national security—the heart of our strength in times of war and peace.

For 50 years, Americans like you have chosen this path. Our all-volunteer-force of the brave and the bold—just one percent of our country—take up the mantle of keeping all of us safe. And as my husband says, it's our sacred obligation to ensure that military service is an opportunity of dignity and honor, of pride and accomplishment. Not just for our service members, but for those they love—the families who answer the call of duty as well.

That's why I launched Joining Forces, my White House initiative to support military and veteran families, caregivers, and survivors.

And as you build your lives—grow in your careers and create communities and move throughout the country and the world—know that we are grateful for everything that you do. And we are working every day so that you never have to choose between your love of country and your love of family.

And I want to thank the families here for all that they've done to support you and all that they will continue to do.

We often measure our lives in big milestones and achievements. Today is one of those accomplishments.

But so much of who we are is made up of smaller moments—the kindnesses we offer to people in our lives, faithfulness to our word, showing up—for each other, for our country, for the principles that guide us.

The choice you've made to become a Marine is monumental to your life, and the lives of the Americans you protect and defend. And it's a choice you make every day to continue to serve. To show up where you're needed most. To represent us all.

Thank you for your courage and your service. God bless you and your families. Semper Fi!

Jill Biden, Remarks by the First Lady at the U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island Graduation Ceremony in Parris Island, South Carolina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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