Local Politics

Military families share concerns with first lady

Posted March 11, 2009
Updated March 12, 2009

— During a Thursday visit to Fort Bragg and Fayetteville, Michelle Obama started building a network of Army spouses and relatives to keep her informed about the needs of military families.

The first lady said she shares her husband's desire to raise military pay and improve housing, health care and child care options for members of the armed services and veterans.

"These are the issues that soldiers and their families have discussed with me over the last couple of years," Obama said in an afternoon speech to Fayetteville-area community groups that provide support to soldiers and their families.

Michelle Obama in Fayetteville Web only: Michelle Obama praises Fayetteville

"Military families bear a very heavy burden, and they do it without complaint," she said. "But as a nation, we need to find ways to lighten their load."

She also lauded Fayetteville for its efforts to reach out to military families.

"You have found ways to help strengthen families under great stress. You've found ways to make life fun for children who wake up and go to sleep worried about their moms and dads," she said. "Fayetteville clearly does watch over those who watch over us."

Earlier in the day, Obama toured the headquarters of the XVIII Airborne Corps, getting a briefing on everything from the history of Fort Bragg to the types of schools and military housing on post. She also had a private lunch at the Iron Mike dining facility with 20 military family members and five Fort Bragg volunteers.

"It was just terrific. I mean, my knees are still trembling," said Freddie Williams, whose husband is stationed at Fort Bragg. "She's a down-to-earth, beautiful person. She's just a God-blessed person sent to us, and it was an honor to shake my president's wife's hand."

Michelle Obama at Fort Bragg First lady tours Bragg, meets with Army families

During an afternoon stop at the Prager Child Development Center, one of five child-care facilities on post, Obama read “The Cat in the Hat” to a dozen preschoolers. She spent about 20 minutes with them, engaging the 3- to 5-year-olds with questions.

“It was like she was reading to her children,” said Mattie White, a lead education technician at the center. “It was exciting; it was a thrill. It was something I will never forget.”

Before her speech to community groups at the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County, Fayetteville Mayor Tony Chavonne presented her with a framed photograph taken by Fayetteville Observer photographer Andrew Craft depicting a deployed soldier saying goodbye.

"I think she recognizes the uniqueness of this community at this special time in our country's history,” Chavonne said.

The afternoon meeting took place at the arts council's Hay Street headquarters, and some residents said Obama's visit demonstrates the success of downtown redevelopment. A red-light district in the 1970s and 1980s, Hay Street is now home to stylish condominiums and trendy boutiques and cafes.

"I think we have a wonderful downtown here in Fayetteville," resident Whitney Peters said. "It's happening, busy, fun (and) unique."

The events marked the first time Obama has visited North Carolina as first lady, but it was her third stop in Fayetteville in the past year. Last year, she made numerous visits to North Carolina during her husband's presidential campaign.

The plight of military families was one of the issues the first lady focused on while on the campaign trail. She held a number of roundtable discussions on the matter and said she felt they provided spouses with opportunities to tell their stories.

At a forum in October, she spoke to military families about challenges military families face when a family member is deployed.

On Thursday, she learned Fort Bragg is making improvements to ease the strain on families, including building three more child-care facilities and at least four new schools and youth centers. The Army also plans to spend more than $560 million on family housing on post over the next 10 years.

Spouses of Fort Bragg soldiers also expressed concern about finding jobs outside the military.

It's unclear whether Obama will be able to do anything about the concerns, but her spokeswoman said the purpose of the visit was to build a network of people who can speak to her about what military families need.

The Fort Bragg trip comes after a trip last week to Arlington National Cemetery, where she told women in the military that the nation must do all that it can to support military families.

Speaking at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Center, Obama said the burden of military service falls not just on the person in uniform, but on the service member's entire family.


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  • sayitoutloud Mar 13, 2009

    She is a role model for women- working and rasing kids. How is she a "working mom" that is raising children? Im pretty sure she doenst work a 40 hour week and when she gets home she has to cook dinner, do laundry, homework and get the kids in bed by herself. Come on now. Working mom is a little far fetched.

  • sayitoutloud Mar 13, 2009

    I wish she had went to the VA hospital in Fayetteville or Durham. She could have seen how are Veterans are Truely treated by the government. After having my father there for quite some time I know that the one in Durham is horrible. The level of care there is unexplainable and unacceptable (that why he is no longer there). I would not put my worst enemy in that facility to be cared for. The whole place and its staff are USELESS.

  • thelewisclan Mar 13, 2009

    MyNameIsMud- I didn't state that's what Obama was saying. I said I believe that is the clip that was being referenced.

    Superman-I agree that people should be focusing on those with no jobs,but I completely disagree with your statements on sense of entitlement.I didn't really see anyone complaining to her about pay or benefits.I see them talking to her about issues that they face with the careers that they are in.If she came to your office and asked for your input on what you thought needed fixing,would you say absolutely nothing?I'm sure that given the chance anyone wouldn't speak up.And she wasn't talking about throwing money at them,she was talking to them about what resources REALLY work-the government and military WASTES so much money on programs that DON'T work.It would be interesting if someone actually listened to the families-it's usually a lot cheaper than what's out there already.And speaking from experience,soldiers don't ALWAYS get paid..paycheck "mistakes" are common.

  • superman Mar 13, 2009

    Her sincere concern should be for the 10% of the people in NC who have NO job, no insurance and live from day to day in extreme desperation. Losing everything they have because they cant work. At least the people in the military are getting paid and get benefits. We need to do something for the thousands of unemployed who have little or no hope for today or tomorrow. I am retired but my heart and concern goes out to the thousands of people who are now living in extreme poverty with no hope. Not the people in the military who may not have all they want or need but certainly they so much better off than the people with no job. I guess she thought her focus on the military would be popular.

  • superman Mar 13, 2009

    Exactly that this country needs. To give people a stronger sense of entitlement. We give you more and more and its all free. Money just happens to fall out of the sky. They signed up for their jobs, they knew the pay, the knew the ups and downs. If it is too hot in the kitchen-- get out-- dont sit around and cry. Besides, she has no official position, she is not an employee, she was not elected! Her travels around the world should be at her expense-- not ours. People didnt seem to like the former governor's wifes trip where is the objection to her traveling at public expense. A spouse of any government official should not be permitted to travel at will at our expense. Stay home Mrs. Obama.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Mar 13, 2009

    UNCG4Heels, if you really want to know what our First Lady will "do to help these families", you'll listen to what she has to say. Or, you could just slam her and then plug your ears...like a petulant child.

  • Boot-the-DC-Tyrant Mar 13, 2009

    What in the world can this woman do to help these families? What a joke.

  • tibbs29 Mar 13, 2009

    excuse me, but I have not always been proud of MY country.. I'm sure that many people haven't been proud of many things, such as proud of themselves, of their children, of many things that may have happened in one's life, so get over yourselves about someone not being proud of this country. The First lady is doing what she needs and wants to do for the citizens of THIS country, etc... Go Obamas!!!!!!

  • seankelly15 Mar 12, 2009

    bradh2 - Do you know who McKiernan is?

  • MyNameIsMud Mar 12, 2009


    Thank you, but the video and story say nothing about killing babies. I believe what was addressed was need to work harder to avoid civilian casualties---something the media has been calling "collateral damage" since the Gulf War. If someone wishes to accuse Obama of saying US soldiers are killing babies, then back it up with an actual quote or stop saying something so ridiculous and repulsive.