Joining Forces Blog

  • Oldest Living Female WWII Veteran Welcomed to the White House by the President and Vice President

    Vice President Biden greets Lucy Coffey the oldest living female WWII veteran

    Vice President Joe Biden greets Lucy Coffey, 108, the oldest living female World War II veteran, in his West Wing Office, July 25, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    When her country called during World War II, Lucy Coffey answered. Three months after her 37th birthday, Coffey quit her job at the local A&P grocery store and enlisted in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). Today, at age 108, Coffey is the oldest living female World War II veteran, and last week she received a warm welcome to the White House by President Obama and Vice President Biden during her visit to Washington, D.C. as part of the Honor Flight Network.

    Coffey was one of 400,000 American women who served in uniform during World War II, and during the war, she travelled through Australia, New Guinea, the Philippines, and eventually landed in Japan where she served as an account-statistician in the procurement office. During her WWII service, Coffey rose to the rank of sergeant and served in the Battle of Luzon, earning the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with a bronze star. She also earned an Asiatic Pacific Theatre Ribbon with one bronze star, a World War II Victory Medal, the WAC Service Medal, and a Good Conduct Medal.

    Following her discharge in 1945, Coffey continued to work as a civilian for the Army in Okinawa, Japan for 13 years, and then returned to Texas to continue her service in the procurement office at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas until her retirement in 1971.

    In addition to meeting with President Obama and Vice President Biden, Coffey received a personal tour of both wings of the White House, and visited the Rose Garden.

  • 8 Keys to Veterans’ Success Receives More than 400 College and University Commitments

    Last August, at the Disabled American Veterans National Convention, President Obama outlined key Administration priorities that ensure we are fulfilling our promises to those who have served our nation, including supporting our veterans in institutions of higher learning. In his speech, President Obama announced that 250 community colleges and universities committed to implementing the 8 Keys to Success program on their campuses.

    Developed by the Administration, the Department of Education (ED), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in conjunction with more than 100 education experts, the 8 Keys to Veterans' Success on campus are eight concrete steps that institutions of higher education can take to help veterans and service members transition into the classroom and thrive once they are there. Over the past year, the number of commitments have nearly doubled as more than 400 colleges and universities have affirmed their commitment to take the necessary steps to assist veterans and servicemembers in transitioning to higher education, completing their college programs, obtaining career-ready skills, and achieving success.

  • The First Lady Attends the Unite for Veterans Summit

    First Lady Michelle Obama talks with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti

    First Lady Michelle Obama talks with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti backstage before the Veterans Homelessness event in Los Angeles, Calif., July 16, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    Today, First Lady Michelle Obama delivered the keynote speech during the Unite for Veterans Summit in Los Angeles. The summit, which gathered local officials, service providers, researchers, and funders, identified best practices in housing and employment for veterans and their families, and was a shining example of community collaboration.

    The event — co-hosted by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the University of Southern California, and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco — gave Los Angeles community leaders an opportunity to learn about the issues impacting veterans and their families, and to accept the challenge of addressing and ending them. As one formerly homeless veteran noted, "We are here to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes.”

  • Tune In: The First Lady Speaks at the Unite for Veterans Summit

    Ed. note: This live event has concluded.

    Today at 2:15 p.m. ET, First Lady Michelle Obama will deliver the keynote address at the Unite for Veterans Summit in Los Angeles, an event hosted by United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the Federal Reserve Bank, and the University of Southern California. 

    As part of the Joining Forces Initiative, the First Lady is teaming up with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to highlight the importance of aiding veterans as they transition into the next phase of their lives. Mayor Garcetti has joined the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness by the end of 2015.

    Watch the First Lady's remarks right here starting at 2:15 p.m. ET:

    Watch on YouTube

  • VA Tools Help Vets, Servicemembers Transition

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' blog. See the original post here.

    We’re working hard to provide veterans with the tools to help them reach their full potential. It’s easier than ever before for veterans and returning servicemembers to get help finding a job and transition to civilian life. I know firsthand that when veterans connect to competitive employment opportunities, they succeed and achieve.

    VA recently enhanced the GI Bill® website by adding new tools to help beneficiaries learn more about job choices and skill-building opportunities. Three new apps — the GI Bill Comparison tool, the online Factors to Consider When Choosing a School guide, and the CareerScope tool — are designed to work together so beneficiaries can make the most of their education benefits. We’re also looking at tools better suited for 21st-century families. Spouses are integral when it comes to financial prosperity of the family. The flexibility of the GI Bill reflects modern day realities of dual working families. We’re seeing more and more veterans career-plan with their spouse on the best ways to jointly use the GI Bill.

  • AAPIs Supporting Veterans Through Action and Service

    As the Fourth of July weekend approaches, Americans everywhere will gather to celebrate the birth of our nation with a traditional fireworks display, a nice barbecue, or by spending time with family and friends. The Fourth of July is also a time to honor the patriotism and dedication of our military and their families.

    There is no greater debt than the one owed to our service members, as well as the families of those who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms we enjoy. I often reflect on those who have given us so much throughout history, as well as the thousands of service members who are still in harm’s way today. We should never forget that the freedoms we sometimes may take for granted in our nation were paid for in lives.

    I recently met a veteran who embodies this spirit and more. Saif Khan honors veterans the best way he knows how — through action. Saif invests in our nation by leading a non-profit organization dedicated to helping veterans and their families with employment opportunities. He believes that the best way to show appreciation for our veterans is to "pay it forward" for our next generation, and provide support for those returning home to their communities. 

    Saif emigrated to the U.S. from India as a child and joined the Virginia Army National Guard after high school. He served as a Combat Engineer in Mosul, Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2004 to 2005. Since returning from Iraq, Saif has been a strong advocate for veterans, and has worked with senior military leaders and legislators to identify problems returning veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan face. Saif has also been active in helping military families with employment opportunities; in May, he organized a career resource fair to match veterans and military families with recruiters from local law enforcement and emergency response agencies.

    Veterans and military families meet with recruiters at a Veterans Career Fair in Arlington, VA on May 15, 2014.

    Veterans and military families meet with recruiters at a Veterans Career Fair in Arlington, VA on May 15, 2014. (Photo courtesy of American Veterans Committee)

    Saif and the many thousands of Americans who have dedicated their efforts to supporting our returning veterans fill me with pride, hope, and a sense of optimism for our nation. It’s important that we ensure no veteran has to fight for a job at home after they fight for our nation overseas. As more and more AAPIs answer the call to serve, we must follow Saif’s example and ensure returning veterans have the opportunity to prosper in their hometown communities. It’s imperative that they have access to employment resources, educational opportunities, and health and wellness services when they return home. President Obama has made it a national priority to ensure that military members and their families are cared for, and many organizations are engaging in the type of work Saif does every day.

    Getting Involved with Joining Forces

    Three years ago, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden started Joining Forces to show their appreciation for the incredible families across America who do so much for our country — not just with words, but with real, concrete action. Joining Forces is a national initiative to engage all sectors of society to support our service members. The initiative brings attention to the unique needs and strengths of America’s military families and showcases the incredible skills and experience of veterans and military spouses. Joining Forces encourages concrete actions and for all Americans to "step up" and show their gratitude to our service members and their families through action.

    In April, the First Lady and Dr. Biden launched the Veterans Employment Center (VEC) website. The VEC is the result of extensive interagency collaboration between the Department of Defense, Department of Labor, Department of Veterans Affairs, and other federal partners. It is designed to provide veterans and transitioning service members a “one-stop shop” website to post resumes, translate their military skills, and search for jobs. Additionally, the VEC enables employers to post jobs and search veteran resumes for potential hires — it’s a huge leap ahead, both for veteran job seekers and for employers looking to hire veterans.

    This Fourth of July, we should remember that the fiber of the American mosaic is woven by diverse communities represented in our Armed Forces. In the coming years, we must focus on supporting the hundreds of thousands of veterans seeking opportunities after returning to their local communities. Saif is the perfect example of an AAPI leader who is doing this. He is "paying it forward" for America every day, and our nation will be all the better for it. 

    To learn more about how you can support military members and their families, visit the Joining Forces website at http://www.whitehouse.gov/joiningforces.

    Lt. Col. Ravi Chaudhary is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.