Joining Forces Blog

  • The U.S. Army Celebrates Its 239th Birthday

    On June 14, the United States Army celebrated its 239th birthday. Since 1775, in war and in peace, American soldiers and their families have answered the nation’s call to serve — to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Today we honor that service and pay tribute to the 187 campaign streamers that adorn the Army flag.

    The total Army is comprised of more than 1.1 million men and women in uniform, supported by civilians and the families of the Active Army, Army Reserve, and National Guard. America’s all-volunteer Army is the best trained, best equipped, most capable land force in the world. Today’s Army is engaged in the longest period of combat operations in our nation’s history. On behalf of a grateful nation, we applaud the many contributions of our soldiers, veterans, survivors, and their families. 

    As the 38th Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, often reminds us: "The strength of our Nation is our Army, the strength of our Army is our Soldiers, the strength of our Soldiers is our Families. This is what makes us Army Strong."

  • Father’s Day Reflection

    Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 is a day that most Americans know as the day that our 44th President was sworn into office.  Of course, I recall the historical and social significance too, but I missed the inaugural speech because this was also the day that my oldest son was born.  I “witnessed” the birth via telephone from Iraq.  I was 8 months into the deployment, so not only did I miss being in the delivery room, I also missed the morning sickness, the 1st ultrasound and all the other memories that went along with the pregnancy.  Hearing my son’s first cries over the telephone and knowing I wouldn’t meet him or hold him for six more weeks was an incredible feeling that I would have to put aside until later.  Military fathers know this drill all too well. Missing important, personal moments; delaying or setting aside the emotions of the day until some other, more convenient time -- that’s the selfless part of serving.

    Father’s Day is a recognition for fathers across the world but a special one for military fathers. My story of missing the birth of my first son is not unique; rather it is a sacrifice shared by nearly every father in the military. Whether on a submarine or a ship at sea, flying the skies or patrolling the lands of a distant outpost in the Middle East, Africa or Asia, American military fathers have missed more than their fair share of important personal moments. Families have sacrificed, too. Countless fathers have missed first steps, first days of school, first dates and graduations. We have missed those times when dads are needed to offer advice or understanding. Wounded Warriors have long had a saying that “it’s not about what you have lost; it’s about what you have left."

    This Father’s Day, I simply encourage every family, but especially military, veteran and survivor families, to spend quality time together.  Acknowledge the difficulty of all the moments missed; then immediately begin to focus on all the possibilities that are left. Knowing the challenges of being away for extended periods of time makes us all infinitely more grateful for the days we have together. Seize this Father’s Day and every day to unpack those special moments you previously set aside – now’s the time!

  • Joining Forces Welcomes Colonel Steve Parker

    Joining Forces is pleased to welcome its new Executive Director, United States Army Colonel Steve Parker. Colonel Parker is honored and privileged to work with the First Lady on behalf of his fellow service members, veterans and their families. His main focus will be to mobilize communities to take action, through collaborative networks of public and private partners on behalf of America’s veterans, survivors and military families.

    Colonel Parker has served in a variety of assignments over his 25 year career; and as Soldier, father, and husband, he has seen and experienced the unique challenges faced by our Nation’s heroes and their families. Experiences that will serve him well in leading Joining Forces. Following graduation and commissioning from the United States Military Academy at West Point, he served as an Air Defense Artillery platoon leader, commander and staff officer in Germany, Desert Storm and Korea. 

    As a Foreign Area Officer he served as a United Nations Military Observer in Western Sahara and Morocco and studied counter-insurgency operations at the Zimbabwe Defense Forces College. He has been assigned to US Embassies in Zimbabwe and the Republic of Djibouti. While in Djibouti, Colonel Parker played a leading role in establishing the conditions for Combined Joint Task Force—Horn of Africa. He later served as Deputy Executive Officer and Aide de Camp to the Commander, US Africa Command.

    His commands and operational assignments include the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) at Fort Drum, NY, where he was a Battery Commander, Battalion Executive Officer and Battalion Commander. He served as Commander of the 10th Special Troops Battalion – leading an organization of nearly 1,000 soldiers and civilians, during year-long combat operations in support of OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM and OPERATION NEW DAWN.

    Previously, Colonel Parker was selected as a White House Fellow in 2005, where he served on the Domestic Policy Council and in the Office of the First Lady. Following the fellowship, Colonel Parker served as a speechwriter for the Chief of Staff of the Army. He most recently served as the Director of Operations, Plans, Training and Simulations for Fort Sill and the US Army’s Fires Center of Excellence.

    A graduate of the Defense Language Institute where he studied French, COL Parker also earned an MA in African Studies from Yale University and a BS from the United States Military Academy. Colonel Parker has been awarded the U.S. State Department’s third highest Medal for Service and the Republic of Djibouti’s second highest award for contributions to that nation—the 27 June Medal. Other awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, the United Nations Medal, the Presidential Service Badge, and the Ranger Tab.

    Steve and his wife Riva have four children: daughter, Zoe; and sons, Noah, Caleb and Eli. Riva is an accomplished corporate attorney now serving as a Department of the Army Civilian and labor counselor in the office of the Staff Judge Advocate at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

  • Minnesota Passes Legislation That Supports Military Families

    Joining Forces applauds Minnesota for recently passing legislation to support veterans and military families – and for becoming the 48th state to join the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children as a full member.  

    In May, Governor Mark Dayton signed the “Joining Forces for Jobs” Act, which helps military families by making it easier for veterans and military spouses to gain occupational licensure in Minnesota. When military spouses who hold professional certifications in other states move to Minnesota, they will be able to get temporary professional licenses while pursuing their certifications from Minnesota. This will help reduce unemployment or underemployment of military spouses in Minnesota due to the bureaucratic hurdles involved with moving from out of state.

    The Minnesota State Legislature also enacted major updates to its education policy, which includes provisions that will make a positive impact in the lives of military families. Teachers with a current license from another state will now be able to obtain a temporary license. Legislation regarding license portability is critical because 35% of military spouses have careers that require professional licenses or certifications, and these spouses are 10 times more likely to move across state lines than their civilian counterparts.  

  • SBA Announces Boots to Business: Reboot

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the U.S. Small Business Administration website. See the original post here.

    The Small Business Administration (SBA) will host Boots to Business: Reboot, an entrepreneurship training course for Veterans in twelve cities across the U.S. Each event, led by SBA Resource Partners and industry experts from Syracuse University’s Institute for Veteran and Military Families (IVMF), will host up to 100 Veterans for a two-day Introduction to Entrepreneurship class.

    Boots to Business: Reboot, will introduce veterans to the fundamentals of business ownership, and lead participants through the key steps for evaluating business concepts and developing a business plan. The program will also introduce participating Veterans to a network of lifetime business support available locally across the U.S. by introducing them to SBA’s network of Veteran Business Outreach Centers, Women’s Business Centers, Small Business Development Centers and SCORE Counselors.

    Boots to Business: Reboot will adapt the curriculum from the SBA-sponsored Boots to Business: From Service to Startup, a worldwide program offered as a component of the Department of Defense’s redesigned Transition Assistance Program (TAP) renamed Transition GPS. The curriculum, developed to introduce transitioning service members to business ownership and connecting them to resources in their local communities, will now be available to more than 22 million Veterans who have already transitioned into civilian life.

  • The President Commemorates the 70th Anniversary of D-Day

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the White House Blog. See the original post here.

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    Earlier today — the last day of his current trip across Europe — President Obama traveled to Normandy, France to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

    After meeting with World War II and post-9/11 U.S. veterans, the President attended the 70th French-American Commemoration D-Day Ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Omaha Beach. In his remarks, he paid tribute to the American and Allied forces who fought during the D-Day landings in June of 1944.

    "I’m honored to return here today to pay tribute to the men and women of a generation who defied every danger -- among them, our veterans of D-Day," President Obama said. He went on to thank the people of France for their generosity to Americans who have come "over the generations — to these beaches, and to this sacred place of rest for 9,387 Americans."