Joining Forces Blog

  • Spotlight on Troops to Teachers: Jorge Pulleiro

    Jorge Pulliero teaching

    During Jorge Pulleiro’s tenure as a middle school teacher, he has received several prestigious awards, including the Loretta Wollet Award (2008) for outstanding teaching at the K-12 level, the Toyota International Education Award (2008) and the Fulbright Classroom Teacher Exchange award to Universidad Popular de la Chontalpa, Tabasco, Mexico (2011). (Photos courtesy of Jorge Pulleiro)

    We all had teachers who influenced us and helped make us the adults we are today. In 2014, we will be honoring teachers who are having a lasting impact on their students each and every day, and who have also had a lasting impact on our nation – because these teachers are veterans who have chosen to begin a new career in the classroom after serving in the armed forces. 

    Our schools across the United States are benefiting from these former service members who are proud to serve their country again as teachers. They bring their unique talents into classrooms and are influencing a new generation of students. The White House and the Department of Defense, through the Troops to Teachers program, are joining forces to bring veterans' unique talents to public schools. Veterans offer unmatched skills, experience, and dedication to the schools and students they now serve.

    Our first spotlight is Troops to Teachers participant Jorge Pulleiro, a Spanish teacher at Wood River Middle School in Hailey, Idaho. Prior to becoming a middle school Spanish teacher, Mr. Pulleiro served in the United States Army for six years. His Army career took him from North Carolina to Heidelberg, Germany, and points in between. He served as a rear detachment commander for the Army in Germany; a protocol officer and escort for distinguished visitors; and as a team member of the casualty assistance center, where he was involved in the important and somber work of casualty incidents, family notification, casualty assistance, mortuary services and burial honors.

  • President Obama Encourages Licensing and Credential Legislation for Military Spouses and Service Members at National Governors Association Meeting

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    President Barack Obama meets with the National Governors Association in the State Dining Room of the White House, Feb. 24, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Today, in remarks to the National Governors Association, President Obama told governors from across the nation that impactful licensing and credential legislation is a necessity for military spouses and transitioning service members.

    Since the First Lady and Dr. Biden first began meeting with members of the military community, they have heard countless stories about how spouses struggled to find jobs in their fields because when they moved, their professional licenses were no longer valid, or they didn’t meet a new state’s credentialing requirements. Upon learning about these obstacles, the First Lady and Dr. Biden began advocating for new legislation that supports transitioning service members and military spouses to get the professional licenses and credentials they need to get hired.

  • Austin’s Military Playroom Opening at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton

    On Friday, January 31, the Mario Lemieux Foundation announced the opening of an Austin’s Military Playroom at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California. This playroom will serve many military and veteran families in the San Diego area by giving their children a place to have fun and relax while they receive care at the hospital.

    As an active duty service member and mother of three, I understand the importance of having a place for kids to unwind and relax, especially during trying times. This playroom means that military and veteran parents will deal with a bit less stress when they spend time at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton.

    This military playroom is the second of its kind opened by the Mario Lemieux foundation. The first was opened at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland in 2011. To read more about the Austin’s Military Playroom opening at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, read here.

    The Lemieux Foundation is a 501(c)3  organization dedicated to raising funds for cancer research and patient care, as well as Austin’s Playroom Project.

    Commander Cara LaPointe, US Navy, is a White House Fellow in the Office of the First Lady

  • First Lady Michelle Obama Announces that the Construction Industry Will Hire 100,000 Veterans Over the Next 5 Years

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    First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at the National Symposium on Veterans' Employment in Construction, in support of Joining Forces, at the Department of Labor in Washington, D.C., Feb. 10, 2014. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and veterans Larry Melton and Katie Sanicky are onstage with the First Lady. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

    Today,  First Lady Michelle Obama  addressed well over 300 stakeholders from the military, business community, and federal  government at the first ever Veterans’ Employment in Construction Symposium at the Department of Labor. The First Lady announced that more than 100 companies in the construction industry are committing to hire more than 100,000 veterans over the next 5 years.  

    This announcement is a testament to what can happen when employers think bigger than their own company’s needs and come together to leverage their industry’s resources. Associations like NCCER and the Home Builder’s Institute, as well as those supported by the Building Trades, Associated General Contractors of America, and firms partnered with Helmets to Hardhats’ are banding together to train the next generation of workers.

    In her remarks, The First Lady noted that, “America’s military turns out some of the highest-skilled, hardest-working employees this country has ever seen.”  Veterans have the experience and skills necessary to succeed in any career and today we thank the construction industry for this innovative commitment. This visionary effort is addressing the need for improved transition support and skills development in this ever growing field.  

    We urge other sectors, firms, and associations to view veterans as an investment in their organization and America.

    To review the First Lady’s speech, please click here.

    Colonel Rich Morales is the Executive Director for Joining Forces.

  • Nine Soldiers Selected for 2014 U.S. Olympic Team

    Ed. note: This cross-posted from the Department of Defense's DoD Live blog. See the original post here.

    Olympic Bobsledding

    Army Sgt. Nick Cunningham, assigned to the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, jumps into the sled to drive Olympic gold medalist and WCAP teammate Sgt. Justin Olsen, Johnny Quinn, and Abraham Morlu to 16th place in the four-man bobsled event at the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation’s 2013 World Cup stop Dec. 7, at Utah Olympic Park in Park City, Utah. (U.S. Army photo by Tim Hipps/Released)

    Nine soldiers in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program are members of the U.S. Olympic Team that will compete at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, scheduled for Feb. 7 through 23 in Sochi, Russia.

    The U.S. Olympic Committee officially announced the team Jan. 27.

    The soldier-athletes named to Team USA are 2010 Olympic gold medalist in four-man bobsled Sgt. Justin Olsen, 26, of San Antonio; 2010 Olympic bobsledder Capt. Christopher Fogt, 30, of Alpine, Utah; 2010 Olympic bobsledder Sgt. Nick Cunningham, 27, of Monterey, Calif.; bobsledder Sgt. Dallas Robinson, 31, of Georgetown, Ky.; 2006 Olympic luger Sgt. Preston Griffall, 29, of Salt Lake City; and luger Sgt. Matt Mortensen, 28, of Huntington Station, N.Y.

    Three WCAP coaches also will represent the U.S. Army in Russia. Team USA luge coach Staff Sgt. Bill Tavares, 50, of Lake Placid, N.Y., will be making his sixth appearance in the Olympics, including once as an athlete and five times as a coach. Team USA skeleton coach Sgt. 1st Class Tuffield “Tuffy” Latour, 45, of Saranac Lake, N.Y., will make his fourth trip to the Olympics. He has coached U.S. and Canadian men’s and women’s bobsledders to Olympic medals. Team USA assistant bobsled coach 1st Lt. Michael Kohn, 41, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., is a two-time Olympic competitor who will make his Olympic coaching debut at the Sochi Games. He won a bronze medal in four-man bobsled as a WCAP athlete at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

    USA-1 bobsled driver Steven Holcomb, 33, of Park City, Utah, is the reigning Olympic champion in the four-man event. He spent seven years in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program.

  • Caring for the Caregivers

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from The Huffington Post. See the original post here.

    Vice President Biden and Dr. Biden host a Wounded Warrior barbecue at the Naval Observatory Residence

    Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden host a Wounded Warrior barbecue at the Naval Observatory Residence, Sept. 11, 2013. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    Earlier today, at an event on the expanding role of caregivers in our society, I had the opportunity to tell the story of two remarkable young men I met at a reception my husband Joe and I hosted for Wounded Warriors on Sept. 11, 2013.

    Kyle and Brett Pletzke are brothers from Rockford, Michigan. Kyle is an Army Specialist who was injured on his first deployment to Afghanistan in late 2012. Kyle sustained multiple pelvis fractures, an ankle injury, and nerve damage to most of his right leg.

    When Kyle first came to the White House in 2013, he was in a wheelchair. A few months later when he came to our home for the reception, he was walking.

    Kyle credits much of his progress to the fact that his older brother Brett was able to serve as his primary caregiver during his recovery. And Brett notes that the reason he was able to help Kyle was because of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Caregiver Rule, which provides training, counseling, supportive services, and a living stipend to post-9/11 veterans' caregivers.

    Because of the Rule, Brett's employer kept his job open so Brett had the time to care for his brother. Now Brett's back at his job in Chicago, and Kyle is doing great. Like the brothers' situation illustrates, these support systems can have a significant impact on the day-to-day hardships caregivers face.