Remarks by the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden at Joining Forces Meet-and-Greet with Military Families
1:10 P.M. CDT
DR. BIDEN: Thank you, everybody. Go ahead and sit, sit. I just wanted to say thank you for having me here, and Michelle here, today.
I am a military mom. Our son Beau was deployed to Iraq for a year in 2008, just before we were elected. So it was kind of bittersweet that Beau went off to war, and then we were elected. And actually, the night of the election, as we walked out, we had Beau -- we Skyped with Beau so that he could walk out with us onto the stage. So it was a really incredible experience.
But I just want to say, that year away was a really tough year for the Biden family. And our community stepped up, and it meant so much to me and to Beau’s family and his children. And so Michelle and I are just hoping that -- one of the reasons we started Joining Forces was to have other Americans honor you and respect you and lift you up like I was lifted up. So that’s why we started it.
We’ve been working together -- it’s been three years. It’s our anniversary. So thank you all for what you do, because I know how tough it is. So thank you.
MRS. OBAMA: Thanks, Jill. We’re just thrilled to be here. And we’re honored to be celebrating the third year of Joining Forces here at Fort Campbell with all of you.
Unlike Jill, I wasn’t a military mom. I wasn’t a Blue Star family member. I didn’t know much about the military, and I was probably more like the average American. Because when one percent of the country is serving and protecting the freedoms of the other 99 percent, it’s very easy for the other 99 percent to take that for granted.
And I first was exposed to the military community on the campaign trail. I remember that we would do these gatherings with moms, women -- mostly working women -- because I wanted to hear through -- for my husband what were some of the challenges of working women out there. And everywhere we went, I heard the voice of a woman that I hadn’t heard before, and it was your voice. And I was just awed and blown away by what I heard through those voices, the challenges you all face.
Dealing with everything that I was dealing with -- a spouse traveling, a job, kids -- we didn’t deal with multiple moves, but I learned about the challenges that happen when you move from base to base to base; the way your kids have to adjust on a dime. And doing it knowing that the person you love is in harm’s way. And those stories moved me in a way that I didn’t expect.
And one of the things I thought was, most Americans don’t know you. They don’t come on these bases. They don’t hear your story. And I felt like if we had the honor of serving this country as President and First Lady, then I was going to help be that voice. I was going to help shine a light on your lives, because I knew that the rest of the country would respond with the same level of compassion and wanting to step up and support you as I felt.
And it just so happened that Jill had the same passion. We didn’t even know -- it was on that night when our families connected on that stage that we talked about the kind of things that were important to us. And military families was at the top of my list, and it was for Jill. And we knew then and there we were going to work to start a movement that would get this country to rally around your families in a way that would show our gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifices you made for all of us.
And now, we’re in the third year of that initiative. And you all should know that the country has responded just as I would have thought. No one tells us no. We ask them and they do it, and they’re doing it for you -- sort of, kind of for us, but mostly for you. (Laughter.)
And what we hope is that over these years, at some point, you’re starting to feel this work on the ground where you are. And that’s important for us. And we always say when we meet with families, you’ve got to keep giving us feedback. Let us know what more we can do, because Joining Forces will not end when our husbands leave office. Our goal is to make sure that every President, every First, Second Lady, every Vice President takes on this initiative.
Because just because these wars are coming to a close doesn’t mean your issues stop. In fact, that’s when the hard work begins -- with the transitions you all have to make as your loved ones come back and they’re looking for jobs, and you’re trying to get the benefits that you’ve earned, and you’re still serving this country. America needs to remember that you’re still out here.
And as far as our military kids go, oh, man, you guys are heroes -- beyond heroes. It is just amazing how poised and mature and confident and selfless you all are, knowing that you hold your families down and allow your parents to do what you do because you all keep your stuff together. And most people don’t know what you go through, and sometimes it feels like it’s hard. But let me tell you, we have seen that kids like you go on to do amazing things because of the challenges that you faced. So it may not feel that way now, particularly when you’re in high school, but let me tell you, we see interns all over the place and when they are Blue Star family kids, they are outstanding.
So we are so proud of you all. We’re proud of what you have done to serve us. You all have served as much as your parents have served.
So we look forward to meeting with all of you. We’re going to be up here like a wedding, taking pictures with all of you guys. (Laughter.) But the main message that Jill and I came here to deliver is, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You have touched my life in a way that you can’t imagine. And hopefully, Joining Forces is just a small way that we’re touching your life.
So with that, we look forward to meeting you guys one on one up here. Congratulations on just being fabulous. (Laughter.) Thank you. (Applause.)
1:18 P.M. CDT