Michelle Obama photo

Remarks at the Fort Bragg Community Center in Fayetteville, North Carolina

March 12, 2009

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you so much. Thank you, Mayor, for that amazing introduction. This picture is just moving. It says so much, and it is going to go up in my office -- tomorrow. Got that? (Laughter and applause.) Thank you.

And thank you to the -- what's your name, sir?

MR. CRAFT: Andrew Craft.

MRS. OBAMA: Andrew, it's a beautiful photo. Thank you so much.

I also want to thank your wife Joanne for her leadership in this community, as well. There's nothing like a wonderful mayor with a good, smart wife -- (laughter) -- right by his side. (Applause.)

I also want to thank Senator Hagan, my dear friend -- (applause) -- and the Fayetteville City Council, and Kirk deViere, who is here, for joining us. (Applause.)

I also want to thank Dianne Campbell, who's the wife of General Charles Campbell, as well as Charlene Austin, the wife of Lieutenant General Lloyd Austin, who spent the day with me; two amazing women. (Applause.) I really enjoyed my time with you both, and your commitment and dedication and sacrifice speaks volumes of this community, this fort. Thank you for your friendship, and I look forward to working with you in the coming months and years.

I came to Fayetteville last year to learn more about the needs of soldiers and their families. The people I met then ?- some of whom who are here today, I believe -- and the stories that I heard stayed with me. They stayed with me. And I wanted to come back. I said I would come back. And thank you all for sharing your lives with me.

I'm delighted to be back. This has been an exciting, fabulous day. I had a wonderful visit at Fort Bragg today where I was able to tour some of the marvelous facilities and learn about life on the base. Although I was here before and spoke to spouses, this is my first time actually on the base. I sat down with military spouses today, I had the best time visiting one of the excellent child care centers, read "Cat in the Hat" and got lots of hugs -- (laughter) -- and I spoke with some soldiers while they were having lunch. That was exciting. (Laughter.) It was a very meaningful visit for me.

But what's always powerful for me is that -- what I notice is that when you meet a soldier, it is the pride that they have for the work that they do. Don't just see it here; I see it everywhere I go, in the faces, in the conduct of every military person that I meet. They have respect for their work, they have respect for their fellow soldiers, and they have respect for the country that they love. These soldiers, they get up every day and they hold themselves to these extremely high standards, the highest standards imaginable. They work hard to prepare every day, not knowing what tomorrow will bring.

Their dedication isn?t just for their own sake, but for the sake of their unit and for the sake of this country. It's pride, high standards, selflessness, dedication, responsibility ?- these are their values.

And as I speak, there are servicemen and women who at their posts across this nation and around the world, as I speak, they're standing watch, and they're providing the security of our daily lives. We keep them, the wounded who are recovering, and those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live in safety and freedom, we keep them in our thoughts and our prayers every second of the day.

But as my husband, the President, said recently in his address at Camp Lejeune, service doesn't end with the person wearing the uniform; the war doesn't end when a soldier returns home. Military family members have their own special courage and strength.

I have met husbands and wives who keep the family on track while their wives and husbands are deployed or on duty. I've met grandparents, and aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers who take care of children while single moms and dads are away. I've met moms and dads who both serve in uniform and leave their children in the care of family when they're both deployed. I've met mothers and fathers who have lost their beloved children to war.

Our soldiers and their families have done their duty. They do it without complaint. And we as a grateful nation must do ours and do everything in our power to honor them by supporting them.

The President recently announced plans to improve housing, to expand child care, to raise military pay, to expand job training for spouses, to implement the 21st-century GI Bill, and expand counseling and support for families who are dealing with the stress of deployment and war.

These are the issues that soldiers and their families have discussed with me over the last couple of years ?- and I heard about it again today. Military families bear a very heavy burden ?- and, again, they do it without complaint. But as a nation, we need to find ways to lighten their load.

Fayetteville, North Carolina is a shining example of how a community can do just that. From holding a baby shower for a thousand expectant mothers -- what a day, I imagine -- (laughter) --- to providing tickets to sporting events, to scholarship programs, to counseling services and support networks designed especially for the children of troops, the people of Fayetteville and the leadership from numerous community organizations and businesses have gone above and beyond the call of duty.

You have found ways to help strengthen families under great stress. You found ways to make life fun for children who wake up and go to sleep worried about their moms and dads. You found ways to celebrate life and provide hope to a new mom who is giving birth all alone. You found ways to comfort a parent when the grief is just too much to bear. Fayetteville clearly does watch over those who watch over us. And thank you for your loyalty and your devotion.

And for those communities out there that don't have a base, there's still work to be done. National Guard and reserve troops come from towns all over this great country, and their families often struggle to cope with the deployment of a spouse or a parent or a child.

So I encourage everyone out there within the sound of my voice to reach out -- to reach out on your own, through schools, the PTA, little leagues, churches, workplaces, and find out if there's a soldier or a soldier?s family right there in your own community who needs a little extra support -- because they are there. Something as simple as offering help with carpool duty can make the world of difference to a parent who is trying to hold the family together during a very stressful time.

I'd also like to make a special plea that we reach out to the wounded soldiers and their families and that -- those who have lost a loved one. Soldiers who return from war and receive care off the base, and widows or widowers and their children can become disconnected from the network of support that comes from living close to a base. And when they lose a troop, all of that is gone. So let?s take it upon ourselves to reach out to them at these times more than ever. They need us.

And finally, it is my hope through these efforts that today's and future generations will honor our men and women in uniform by doing one simple thing: by never taking the blessings of freedom for granted and by doing their part to support these families.

So thank you, Fayetteville. Thank you, Fort Bragg. Thank you to our troops. Let us keep them in our prayers. God bless. (Applause.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks at the Fort Bragg Community Center in Fayetteville, North Carolina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320206

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