Joining Forces Blog

  • Joining Forces Announces New Executive Director

    Nicole Malachowski

    On behalf of First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, we are pleased to welcome United States Air Force Colonel, select, Nicole Malachowski as the new Executive Director of Joining Forces.

    We are excited to have Nicole as part of the Joining Forces team, where she will continue the initiative’s work to support our veterans, service members, and military families. Nicole is the first woman to serve as the Executive Director of Joining Forces, and succeeds Colonel Steve Parker, who is returning to the U.S. Army after an inspiring year with Joining Forces. 

    Nicole is a dedicated public servant with a record of leadership in the United States Air Force. During her two decades of service, she has served as an operational F-15E pilot in three fighter squadrons, and has flown nearly 200 combat hours in Operation Deliberate Forge, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and homeland defense missions in support of Operation Noble Eagle. Nicole served as the first woman pilot to be part of the United States Air Force Air Demonstration, also known as the Thunderbirds. While at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, she served as a commander of the 333rd Fighter Squadron.

  • Thanking and Supporting Our Military Caregivers

    First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at the Elizabeth Dole Foundation's Hidden Heroes Coalition Summit

    First Lady Michelle Obama, in support of the Joining Forces initiative, delivers remarks at the Elizabeth Dole Foundation's Hidden Heroes Coalition Summit: Progress and Promise, at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C., May 20, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    Yesterday, First Lady Michelle Obama joined Sen. Elizabeth Dole at the Hidden Heroes Summit, an event focusing on caregivers of service members and veterans. During the event, the First Lady announced a partnership between the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and Give an Hour’s Campaign to Change Direction. Together, these organizations will work to educate and empower military and veteran caregivers around mental health.

    The First Lady was introduced by Kathleen (Kat) Causey, a military caregiver who exemplifies what it means to be a hidden hero. In 2011, as Kat was preparing to finish her college degree, her husband of 18 months, Aaron, was catastrophically injured in Afghanistan. The blast cost him both of his legs, and Kat has cared for her husband throughout his recovery and rehabilitation.

  • Kids Serve, Too

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the Office of Science and Technology Policy blog. See the original post here.

    As we honor our service members and veterans during Military Appreciation Month this May, it’s important to remember that kids serve, too.

    It’s often not easy being the child of a military family, particularly when it comes to one’s education. Children of our nation’s service members attend six to nine different school systems on average, moving about every two years before they graduate from high school. Those transitions can make it hard to stay on track toward the goal of higher education. That is why Joining Forces, led by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, with support from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), is celebrating the work of organizations like the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), which is expanding support to military-connected students.

  • The First Lady, Dr. Biden, and Ben Folds Celebrate Military-Connected Moms

    To celebrate Military Spouse Appreciation Day and an early Mother's Day, the First Lady and Dr. Biden invited military-connected moms to the White House for their annual Mother’s Day Tea.

    These mothers, grandmothers, and their guests enjoyed sandwiches, cupcakes, and shortbreads with a selection of teas and juices. Kids came too to make Mother’s Day gifts of petal potpourri, lace-topped cupcakes, and even potted-flower cakes.

    The First Lady and Dr. Biden greeted the spouses, thanked all military-connected moms, and recognized their service.

  • Dr. Jill Biden Shares the Story of the Military Child

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the Reading Rainbow Blog. See the original post here.

    Earlier this month, Joe and I invited a few military families over to our home for dinner to celebrate the Month of the Military Child. We know we owe thanks every day to those who wear the uniform, but we also believe we owe a debt of gratitude to their families as well. Because when you have a family member who serves in the military, your whole family serves too.

    Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden host a dinner for military families to celebrate the Month of the Military Child

    Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden host a dinner for military families to celebrate the Month of the Military Child, at the Naval Observatory Residence, in Washington, D.C., April 15, 2015. Also pictured is LeVar Burton, host of Reading Rainbow. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    There are so many military-connected children in this country, and on average these children will attend six to nine different schools before graduating high school. Frequent school changes mean you have to start over in your new community, from trying out for another sports team to making new friends. We know military parents try to do everything that they can to make those transitions as smooth as possible, but we also know it is not easy.

  • LeVar Burton’s Memories Of A Military Childhood

    This post is cross-posted from the blog of Reading Rainbow. See the original post here.

    LeVar Burton of Reading Rainbow

    One of my most indelible memories from childhood comes from when my dad was stationed overseas in Germany when I was a kid. It wasn’t always easy living on base, where we didn’t have access to the most recent American movies, books, T.V. shows—all those pop-culture staples so important to schoolchildren. But that lack of access meant that the cultural staples we did have access to were devoured, treasured…and eventually bartered. American cultural items were currency to a military child, and the most valuable of that currency was comic books.

    When you lived on base, weekdays were for school, Sundays were for family, but Saturday mornings would find every kid out in the stairwells of the multi-story building we lived in, bartering and trading comic books. Each kid would set up “shop”, and the trading would begin. Imagine a cacophony of children’s voices and footsteps, running up and down from landing to landing, checking out each other’s supply, haggling over trades, eyes peeled for the newest issues and acquisitions. Each comic had a different value depending on the superhero, the child, and the household he or she lived in. You might be able to trade two Spidermans for one Batman, for example, or one new issue for two or three older issues.

    Eventually the trading would conclude—every kid happy with the trades they had made, or if not, there was always next week—and we would all go home to read the spoils of our bartering. If you were lucky you had enough to get you through the week to next Saturday. It was this experience as a child in a military family, and the excitement, comfort, and escape the comics provided, that helped spark my lifelong love of reading. Years have passed since those mornings spent trading comics on base, but the memory is as strong as ever.

    When a parent serves his or her country in the military, they don’t serve alone; their families and children serve as well. This week, in honor of “The Month of the Military Child,” we recognize the families and children of the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces.

    LeVar Burton was the host of the PBS children's television series Reading Rainbow, and is now the co-founder of RRKidz, Inc.