USA — Military Spouses are Heroes, First Lady Says

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 today.

“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,” Oba­ma said at the Women’s Con­fer­ence® 2010, held Oct. 24–26 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 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 in pre­pared remarks. 

Women make up 15 per­cent of the mil­i­tary and serve in lead­er­ship posi­tions in every branch of the ser­vice, Biden added. 

“In recog­ni­tion of that evo­lu­tion,” she said, “the pres­i­dent is expand­ing and enhanc­ing care for women vet­er­ans and look­ing for ways to expand childcare.” 

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. 

Oba­ma called on teach­ers, school admin­is­tra­tors and PTA mem­bers to see what their schools can do to bet­ter 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, she said, can make an effort to hire more mil­i­tary spous­es and help make the work­place more accom­mo­dat­ing to mil­i­tary spouses. 

Peo­ple with time to vol­un­teer can go to the Unit­ed We Serve web­site to find out how to help mil­i­tary fam­i­lies in their areas, 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.” 

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

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