Remarks by the First Lady at U.S. Army Fort Benning, Georgia

October 13, 2022

[As prepared for delivery.]

Thank you, Megan. Spouses like you serve everyday—and your work makes our nation stronger.

And Brigadier General Burris and Mrs. Burris, Brigadier General Feltey and Mrs. Feltey, Command Sergeant Major Garner and Mrs. Garner, and the entire Ft. Benning community, we're grateful for your warm welcome this evening.

I also want to thank the Robert Irvine Foundation for hosting this event—and providing meals for military families around the world.

Robert's Breaking Bread with Heroes program truly embodies the idea that "food is love."

As some of you may know, the Bidens are a military family. My father was a Naval Signalman in World War II. And our son, Beau, served for a year in Iraq as a member of the Delaware Army National Guard. So, sharing this time with you is very special to me.

When Beau was deployed, I had a glimpse into the uncertainty that so many of you live with every day—that we can't know what path our lives will take.

And as I was preparing for this evening, I thought about one of those unexpected moments in my own life.

When Beau was eight years old, not long after Joe and I got married, he came to me in the kitchen—a pair of dirty socks in his hands, his sky-blue eyes filled with exasperation—and said, "Jill, aren't you ever going to wash our clothes?"

Before I married Joe, I was living alone in a tiny apartment, and building my career. Marriage and motherhood were not a part of my plan at that moment!

But then I fell in love with Joe. I fell in love with our boys, Beau and Hunter. And my plans faded like road signs in the rearview mirror of our station wagon.

As some of you may know, just after he was elected to the Senate, Joe's family was in a car accident. His wife, Neilia, and baby daughter, Naomi, were killed. We were figuring out how to build a family in the wake of that loss.

When Beau pulled me aside that day, I said to him: "What do you mean, 'am I ever going to wash your clothes?' I just washed them last week!"

But he gathered every bit of the eight-year-old tact he had, said, "It should probably be done every day."

When we follow our hearts, we often end up miles from the carefully crafted routes we had hoped to take. Love takes our maps and compasses and tosses them into the sea.

No one knows that better than military families—than all of you.

When you imagined where your life would take you, you probably didn't think of moving every few years because your spouse has to PCS.

You didn't know you'd have to watch your daughter cry when the support services she relies on at school are hard to get.

You didn't think you'd have to quit a job you want, or take a job you don't, because it's the only option left.

You had plans. And then you fell in love.

As our wars end, people may forget that your service and sacrifice continue.

Here at Fort Benning, I know that families share a unique kind of experience—even within the military community.

Your spouses don't only worry about the wars we wage—they carry the responsibility of the future of our military as well.

And when they leave to train and shape our next generation of warriors—often with no warning or time to prepare—you put your shoulders back: through every missed birthday and parent-teacher conference, through short phone calls and long nights.

Yes, your plans changed. So, you made new ones.

You built a family that can bend without breaking. You are resilient. You found sisters and brothers in those who share this journey. You found joy in unexpected places.

That's what love does too—it makes us strong and helps us grow past the challenges.

And yet, I know that you might be tired of always having to be resilient.

You deserve support—and the service members who love you deserve to know that we honor their entire family's service. Your physical, social, and emotional health are critical to our national security.

That's what Joining Forces—my White House initiative to support military and veteran families, caregivers, and survivors—is all about.

We're working with employers to create jobs and economic opportunities for spouses.

We're working to make sure your families have access to quality child care when they need it—so you don't have to choose between a job and taking care of kids.

We're supporting military kids' education, so students with disabilities have the resources they need and can thrive in their classrooms.

And we're amplifying on-base and off-base resources, like VetCenters, so that military families can get mental health support when they need it.

Your families are a top priority for this Administration. And our goal is to make sure this support for our military families continues long after we leave the White House.

That's what you deserve—you, who have sacrificed for us, who stand between our safety and danger, who stay up worrying about your loved ones so we can sleep soundly at night.

Military families are our family—our American family. And we look out for each other. We take care of our own.

With all my heart: thank you for your service and your sacrifice. Thank you for spending this evening with me.

God bless and protect our troops and their families.

Jill Biden, Remarks by the First Lady at U.S. Army Fort Benning, Georgia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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