State News

White House spouses visit NC military families

Posted April 13, 2011 5:57 a.m. EDT
Updated April 13, 2011 6:02 p.m. EDT

— First lady Michelle Obama told military families on Wednesday that they deserve more recognition for their sacrifices during a pep rally at a sprawling Marine base in North Carolina.

Obama told the crowd at a Camp Lejeune field house that the desire to increase the appreciation for military families is why she and Jill Biden, the wife of the vice president, are promoting a new program to support military families.

"Military families are so good at keeping everything together that it’s almost like you’re wearing camouflage even though you are not the ones on the battlefield," Obama said. "People can't always see your special brand of service because you don't wear it on your sleeve. Your 'ordinary' is extraordinary. That's why we are here today."

Obama added that the families should brag about themselves.

"With each deployment, you run your household by yourself. You watch as your kids grow up a little faster because mom or dad is away," Obama said. 

Biden said she understands what military families go through. The Bidens' son, Beau, was deployed to Iraq two and a half years ago.

“I’m very proud of him, but I also know how tough it can be when a family member is in a war zone thousands of miles away. I know how much you worry,” she said.

After the rally, the two attended a baby shower for 40 pregnant women whose husbands are in the service. Martha Stewart gave a demonstration on scrap-booking, and the women handed out gifts.

Elizabeth Rotenberry, who is pregnant with her fourth child, said she was grateful that Obama is putting the spotlight on this issue. Rotenberry's husband is currently deployed. 

"It was a poignant speech," she said. 

Military wife Mary Monks said it’s the little things that people can do like offer to help cut the grass or rake the leaves for spouses of those deployed. 

The White House said companies and groups already have signed on to the effort called "Joining Forces." For example, Best Buy's Geek Squad will help military families use technology to connect with loved ones who are deployed. Sears and Wal-Mart will offer transfers to employees who are military spouses who have to move and the national PTA will expand efforts to help military children adjust to new schools.

"The initiative aims to education, challenge and spark action from all sectors of society to ensure military families have the support they deserve," a White House statement said.

Obama and Biden go next to San Antonio, where they are meeting with members of the Warrior and Family Support Center, and then to Denver for a baseball game with Colorado military families.