USA — First Lady Visits Camp Pendleton

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., June 14, 2010 — First Lady Michelle Oba­ma greet­ed more than 3,500 ser­vice­mem­bers, civil­ians and their fam­i­ly mem­bers yes­ter­day at the Main­side parade field here.

She came to express her grat­i­tude for their ser­vice and sac­ri­fice because, as she point­ed out, so many of those who have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have come from this sprawl­ing base in north­ern San Diego Coun­ty.

“In the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, no Marine base — and few bases any­where — has sac­ri­ficed more for Amer­i­ca, more lives, more wound­ed war­riors, than your fam­i­lies and your col­leagues,” Oba­ma said.

“We have to build a capac­i­ty to sup­port you and your fam­i­lies at every stage of your lives,” she added, refer­ring to all mil­i­tary mem­bers and their fam­i­lies. This effort needs a nation­al com­mit­ment, Oba­ma said. “No one can sit on the side­lines,” she said. “One per­cent of Amer­i­cans may be fight­ing our wars, but 100 per­cent of Amer­i­cans need to be sup­port­ing you in that fight.”

The effort to coor­di­nate gov­ern­ment agen­cies to pro­vide top-notch sup­port ser­vices for mil­i­tary fam­i­lies is one of her high­est pri­or­i­ties, Oba­ma said.

“My hus­band has ordered a gov­ern­ment-wide review that urges that every depart­ment to make sup­port­ing your fam­i­lies a high pri­or­i­ty,” she said, “and it will lay the foun­da­tion for a coor­di­nat­ed gov­ern­ment approach for years to come.”

Oba­ma said her husband’s admin­is­tra­tion plans to ensure that mil­i­tary fam­i­lies receive the sup­port and ben­e­fits they need. The admin­is­tra­tion has increased funds for mil­i­tary hous­ing, child care, coun­sel­ing and career devel­op­ment for spous­es, she not­ed, and has extend­ed the Fam­i­ly Med­ical Leave Act to more mil­i­tary fam­i­lies and care­givers. And recent­ly, the admin­is­tra­tion expand­ed vet­er­ans’ health care and gave “unprece­dent­ed sup­port to care­givers,” Oba­ma said.

While progress is being made, much work remains to be done, Oba­ma acknowl­edged. She laud­ed the Defense Depart­ment for launch­ing the Mil­i­tary Fam­i­ly Life Project, a study that will assess qual­i­ty of life among ser­vice­mem­bers and spous­es. Oba­ma said she has been urg­ing mil­i­tary spous­es to par­tic­i­pate if select­ed because “the more we know about your pri­or­i­ties, the more we can do to meet them,” she said.

Tak­ing care of mil­i­tary fam­i­lies goes beyond the gov­ern­ment, Oba­ma not­ed. “Every Amer­i­can has to play a role,” she said.

“It’s about every Amer­i­can remem­ber­ing that you and your fam­i­lies; you are the heroes among us,” she added. “It’s about every Amer­i­can doing their part. It’s sim­ple. It’s about mak­ing sure that we real­ize our vision of an Amer­i­ca that stands by you at every stage of your lives.”

The vis­it here was one in a series of appear­ances Oba­ma has made to high­light one of her sig­na­ture issues as first lady — the chal­lenges mil­i­tary fam­i­lies con­tin­ue to face dur­ing near­ly a decade at war.

Oba­ma spent the day tour­ing the base’s new state-of-the-art Wound­ed War­rior Bar­racks that opened ear­li­er this year. She also met pri­vate­ly with ser­vice­mem­bers and their fam­i­lies to learn more about their par­tic­u­lar needs and con­cerns.

For Michelle Tur­nage, wife of Marine Corps Mas­ter Sgt. Fel­ton Tur­nage, get­ting to see the first lady in per­son was a chance of a life­time.

“I think she is an amaz­ing woman, and I’m so glad she came all the way to Cal­i­for­nia in per­son to deliv­er that mes­sage,” she said.

Eliz­a­beth Ihirg, 27, whose hus­band has deployed four times in the last five years, said she felt an instant con­nec­tion with what the first lady said.

“I think her speech was right on, and I think she real­ly spoke to those of us who have been deal­ing with the pres­sures of deploy­ments and fam­i­ly issues,” she said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)