Military spouses are heroes, first lady says
By Cheryl Pellerin, American Forces Press Service
/ Published October 27, 2010
WASHINGTON -- The needs and concerns of military spouses, whose sacrifices benefit the nation, should be of concern to all Americans, First Lady Michelle Obama said Oct. 26.
"These women and men -- they are heroes, and it's time that we recognize the challenges they face and the obstacles they overcome and the contributions they make," Mrs. Obama said at the Women's Conference 2010, held Oct. 24 through 26 in Long Beach, Calif.
"It is an issue that I believe should be on the agenda of every women's conference, right up there with equal pay, right up there with work-family balance, right up there with breaking the glass ceiling," the first lady told 30,000 attendees, who gathered to hear Mrs. Obama and more than 100 other speakers during the annual forum.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, hosted the meeting. The Women's Conference also is a global, online community with more than 1 million participants.
Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, also addressed the conference.
"One of the best parts of my role as second lady is the time I spend meeting servicemembers, military families, veterans and wounded warriors -- people who honor us with their service across this country and around the world," she said.
Women make up 15 percent of the military and serve in leadership positions in every branch of the service, Dr. Biden added.
"In recognition of that evolution, the president is expanding and enhancing care for women veterans and looking for ways to expand childcare," she said.
Mrs. Obama said her husband, President Barack Obama, also has worked hard on behalf of military families, strengthening support programs and counseling services and increasing funds for housing, childcare and career development.
"He's extended the Family and Medical Leave Act to more military families and caregivers, and we're working with states to streamline requirements so that spouses don't have to reapply for professional credentials and take new tests every time they move," she said.
"But the truth is that there is so much more that each of us can do and should do right in our own communities ... (and) it's time for each of us to act," the first lady said.
Mrs. Obama called on teachers, school administrators and PTA members to see what their schools can better do to support military kids. Lawyers, accountants or counselors can offer services pro bono to some military families in their communities.
Small-business owners or human resources professionals, who work in large companies, can make an effort to hire more military spouses and help make the workplace more accommodating to military spouses, she said.
People with time to volunteer can go to the United We Serve website to find out how to help military families in their areas, Mrs. Obama said.
The needs and concerns of military spouses "should be on the agenda of every woman and every American because they represent the very best this country has to offer," the first lady said.
"It's time that each of us did our part to give them the support they need, the recognition they deserve and the gratitude they've earned," she added. "I look forward to working with all of you in some way, shape or form to make that happen in the months and years ahead."