Joining Forces Blog

  • Military Children Trick-or-Treat at the White House

    Trick or Treat JF

    President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hand out Halloween treats to local children and children of military families are trick-or treating at the South Portico of the White House, Oct. 31, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    After holding a closed press roundtable with military spouses yesterday afternoon, First Lady Michelle Obama celebrated Halloween by inviting military parents and their children to trick-or-treat at the White House. The White House, adorned with giant spiders and cobwebs, glowed orange while the President and First Lady passed out packages of candy, dried fruit and White House cookies to the children.

    Yesterday’s activities were a chance to show military kids how much the country appreciates the sacrifices they make while their parents are serving. As the First Lady has said, their strength and resilience is amazing and an inspiration to us all. To show support and thank our nation’s youngest heroes, Mrs. Obama has made inviting military children to participate in festivities a tradition at the White House.

    “When we talk about how our men and women in uniform sacrifice so much and serve this country so bravely, we’re not just talking about your parents,” said Mrs. Obama. “We’re talking about our military kids and our military families, because we know that when your parents are called to serve, you all serve right alongside them.”

    On average, most military children will attend six to nine different school systems in their lives from kindergarten to 12th grade. These moves can make it difficult to transfer records, secure spaces in courses, stay included in extra-curricular activities, and complete required testing on time. On top of this, many children experience frequent, multiple deployments of their parents. Despite these challenges, the selflessness and courage of military children are a shining example of service to our country.

    Colonel Rich Morales is Executive Director of Joining Forces

  • Wellness Wednesday: The AAMC Sponsors a Joining Forces Wellness Week

    Ed. note: This is part of a series of blogs about wellness issues for Military Families, Veterans, and Service members. Check back for Wellness Wednesday blogs, where we will cover topics relevant to the holistic health of the military and veteran communities.

    In honor of Veterans Day, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) will sponsor their second annual Joining Forces Wellness Week from November 11 through November 15. During this time, AAMC will host a free, public webinar series with national experts, school-sponsored patient simulation days, and other local educational activities to increase awareness and elevate the role that medical schools and teaching hospitals play in serving our nation’s service members, veterans and their families. With the tens of thousands of men and women returning from war, it’s imperative that our physicians are aware of the unique clinical challenges and best practices associated with caring for these individuals and military connected families.

    As part of the Joining Forces initiative, more than 100 medical schools have pledged to train the nation’s future physicians to better understand, diagnose, and treat the health care needs of our military communities.

    “I’m inspired to see our nation’s medical schools step up to address this pressing need for our veterans and military families,” explained First Lady Michelle Obama. “By directing some of our brightest minds, our most cutting-edge research, and our finest teaching institutions toward our military families, they’re ensuring that those who have served our country receive the first-rate care that they have earned.”

    The AAMC and Joining Forces would like to thank those have signed a pledge to support of our military communities and encourage others to do the same.

  • Dr. Biden, Senate & Military Spouses Team Up to Assemble Care Packs for Wounded Warriors

    The USO provides many opportunities to share our gratitude and thanks with a military family. Find out ways to get involved and share your message of thanks with a military family that will get delivered by the USO. 

    Dr. Jill Biden joins Senate Spouses, military spouses and White House volunteers to Support Recovering Troops

    Dr. Jill Biden joins Senate Spouses, military spouses and White House volunteers to Support Recovering Troops with USO Warrior Care Pack Assembly on the grounds of the Naval Observatory Residence in Washington, DC, Oct. 29, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    Yesterday, Dr. Jill Biden welcomed Senate and military spouses to the Vice President’s Residence to assemble more than 1,500 USO Warrior Care Packs for wounded, ill and injured troops. These special kits were filled with toiletry items most requested – and needed – by our healing heroes. The lip balm, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, lotion, towels and razors will be combined with t-shirts, pants and blankets to provide troops with items to comfort and remind them of home during the recovery process. The USO is well known for their care packages, having shipped millions to troops around the globe in the past decade. 

    Dr. Biden and the spouses moved through the assembly line often packing two to three kits at a time. In true Joining Forces spirit, the Senate spouses in attendance represented both sides of the aisle and the military spouses represented all branches of the military.

  • Joining Forces Welcomes the 2013 USO Service Member Honorees

    First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden join USO honorees for a group photo

    First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden join USO honorees for a group photo in the Blue Room of the White House, Oct. 25, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    This afternoon, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden had the pleasure of welcoming the 2013 USO Service Member Honorees to the White House. The First Lady and Dr. Biden spent time congratulating these outstanding heroes for their exceptional service and sacrifice. The honorees are visiting Washington as part of the annual USO Gala.

    Held every fall, the USO Gala is a time-honored tradition that honors outstanding servicemen and women with an evening of celebration and gratitude. The gala will pay tribute to the honorees through an award ceremony that recognizes the bravery, loyalty and heroism of an enlisted member from each branch of the military, the USO Volunteer of the Year, and the Spirit of the USO award recipient.

    This year’s USO Gala Service Member Honorees include USO Volunteer of the Year Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, USO Marine of the Year Sgt. Andrew C. Seif, USO Sailor of the Year Petty Officer 1st Class Andrew C. Munden, USO Airman of the Year Staff Sgt. Christopher D. Broyles, USO Coast Guardsman of the Year Petty Officer 3rd Class Samuel A. Peikert, USO Soldier of the Year Sgt. Craig D. Warfle, USO National Guardsman of the Year Staff Sgt. Christopher D. Petersen, and Spirit of the USO awardee Mr. David McIntyre.

    First Lady, Michelle Obama and Dr. Biden applaud the honorees for their outstanding accomplishments and their dedication to improving the lives of our military service members, veterans, and families. The USO and these honorees embody some of the best this country has to offer.

    For more than 72 years, the USO has been lifting the spirits of America’s service members and their families. The USO provides critical support to our military communities through an array of comprehensive programs that have continued to adapt to meet the changing needs of our military communities. With more than 160 locations worldwide and 1,700 family programs, their broad reach and valuable resources have touched the lives of millions.

    Joining Forces is proud to have the support of the USO and we are proud to support their mission, their partners, and most importantly, those who serve our country. 

    Colonel Rich Morales is Executive Director of Joining Forces.

  • Welcoming Home the Delaware National Guard's 153rd Military Police Company

    Dr. Jill Biden greets members of the USO after a homecoming ceremony

    Dr. Jill Biden greets members of the USO after a homecoming ceremony for members of the 153rd Military Police Company, at the Governor Bacon Parade grounds in Delaware City, Delaware, Sept. 28, 2013. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    This past Saturday, it was my incredible honor to participate in the homecoming ceremony for the Delaware National Guard’s 153rd Military Police Company. Having been there when they deployed nine months ago, it was especially meaningful to be able to welcome them home. At their deployment in January, I congratulated one Guardsman and his wife on the New Year’s Day birth of their daughter. On Saturday, I was thrilled to meet in person their little nine-month-old girl and hug her mom.

    As the mother of a Delaware National Guardsman who deployed to Iraq for a year, I know well what these families go through while their loved ones are away. The year my son Beau was in Iraq, not a day passed when I didn’t wonder what he was doing and worry about his safety.

    As I said to the men and women of the 153rd, this was a welcome home not just to them, but also to their families who serve right alongside our men and women in uniform. During the 153rd’s nine-month deployment, eight babies celebrated their first birthday while their dads were overseas. Three service members missed their first wedding anniversary. School plays, birthday parties, and graduations all had empty seats as family members served overseas. But I also know the feeling of happiness from being a proud mother when our service members return home, which is why I was thrilled to take part in Saturday’s ceremony.

  • An Open Letter to Our Veterans and Their Families

    Ed. Note: This blog is cross posted from The Huffington Post.

    Back when Jill Biden and I started Joining Forces, we said that one of our top priorities was the health and well-being of our veterans and their families -- and we said that not only as First and Second Ladies, but as mothers and wives. For us, there's nothing more important than knowing that our families are healthy and happy. And after spending so much time with military families and hearing your stories of service and sacrifice for our country, I know that that's your priority as well.

    But while many veterans qualify for health coverage through VA programs, we know that today, there are 1.3 million uninsured veterans and nearly 1 million uninsured family members of veterans. As a result, right now, people who've already sacrificed so much for this country all over the world have to face yet another challenge here at home: dealing with the worry that one accident or illness could mean losing everything you have; enduring all those everyday stresses -- the pains you try to ignore, the symptoms you hope will just go away because you can't afford to see a doctor. 

    That's just not right. But thankfully, because of the new health care law, you and millions of other Americans will soon have access to the quality, affordable health insurance you need. This new law means you can get preventive care -- things like flu shots, mammograms and vaccines for kids -- without additional costs or co-pays. It means you can't be denied coverage because you have a pre-existing condition like diabetes, cancer or asthma. And it means that young people can stay on their parents' insurance until they're 26 years old. 

    And if you don't have insurance, there's now a simple way for you and your family to get all of these benefits, along with the coverage you need. 

    If you are a veteran who is uninsured and hasn't applied for VA coverage, you may be eligible for care through the VA. To find out if you are, just go to VA.gov/healthbenefits, call 877-222-VETS, or visit your local VA facility in person.