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)