Joining Forces Blog

  • Every Hero Deserves a Home

    Every Hero Deserves a Home

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Official Blog. You can find the original post here.

    No one who has served America in uniform should go without a safe, stable place to call home. When HUD released its annual Homeless Assessment Report in 2013 it was estimated that roughly 58,000 veterans—enough to fill Dodger stadium—were homeless on any given night across the country. Though that figure represented an 8 percent decline in veteran homelessness from 2012, the number of veterans sleeping on the streets remains simply unacceptable.

    And while veteran homelessness has fallen 24 percent since 2010, there’s so much more to be done as we work to end veteran homelessness completely by the end of 2015. That’s why on Wednesday, June 4, First Lady Michelle Obama, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson, announced the creation of the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.

    During the announcement at the East Room of the White House, Secretary Donovan said, “Over the years we’ve proven we can house anyone. Now, our charge is to house everyone."

  • The First Lady Announces the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness

    First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at event to announce the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness

    First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at event to announce, as part of the Joining Forces initiative, the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, in the East Room of the White House, June 4, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

    Today, at the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama announced the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness by 2015.

    Joined by Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson, and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, the First Lady announced the nationwide challenge, which already has the commitment of 77 mayors, 4 county commissioners, and 4 governors to help meet this goal.

    Over the last three years, there has been a remarkable 24 percent decrease in homeless veterans, but with 58,000 homeless veterans across the nation, more still needs to be done. The Mayors Challenge will help us get there by involving federal, state, local and community organizations in this “eminently solvable problem.”

  • First Lady Michelle Obama Participates in Ceremony for New U.S. Navy Submarine -- Illinois

    First Lady Michelle Obama Participates In Ceremony For New US Navy Submarine – ILLINOIS

    As official sponsor of the future USS ILLINOIS, the First Lady inscribed her initials onto a steel plate to be welded as an enduring reminder of her special connection with the submarine and its crew.

    Today, in Rhode Island, First Lady Michelle Obama participated in a keel-laying ceremony of a new U.S. Navy submarine called the Illinois. She is the official sponsor of the USS Illinois and has chosen her daughters, Malia and Sasha, to be her maids of honor. In this traditional role, the maids of honor lend symbolic support to the sponsor in her ceremonial duties.

    The keel-laying ceremony is the first of three ceremonial events that mark the milestones during a submarine’s construction. It is the ceremonial start of construction for the submarine and gives the sponsor the first chance to see the submarine under construction and meet her crew. During the event, the First Lady's initials were welded onto a steel plate which will be mounted on to the submarine where it will remain permanently mounted.

    As the sponsor, the First Lady is participating in one of the Navy’s oldest and most hallowed traditions. Sponsors are selected to instill their spirit into the heart of a Navy warship. Additionally, the sponsor is the ceremonial link between the submarine, her crew, and the submarine’s namesake.

    In her remarks as the sponsor of the Illinois, the First Lady highlighted the service and sacrifice that all Navy submariners and their families have made for our great Nation.

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

  • Energy Literacy for Women Veterans – A Strong Economic Future

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Energy website. You can find the original post here.

    There are 2.2 million women veterans in this country; citizens who have served our country in uniform and who are now going on to serve our communities and workplaces as positive forces for America’s competitiveness. The energy workforce offers prime opportunities for our women veterans as it grows rapidly and faces a high retirement rate in its skilled workers – and we’re partnering with the Department of Energy to prime women veterans to engage in this critical sector.

    VA’s commitment to women veterans is second-to-none. Our department-wide Women Veterans Program, led by VA’s Center for Women Veterans, is the focal point of our advocacy – the nexus for enhancing access to our services, and the driver of our initiatives. The Center for Women Veterans is working with the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity at the Energy Department to connect women veterans with employment pathway information, skills training programs, and energy literacy to enter into high-paying energy jobs.

    Resources like Troops to Energy Jobs, a project of the Center for Energy Workforce Development started in 2011, help veterans translate their military experience into the skills that will help them excel in energy jobs and identify additional training resources. We are working to build on these resources, educating veterans about energy career opportunities and showcasing successful women veterans in the energy industry on the Department of Energy’s Women @ Energy series.

    Veterans have specific skill sets that benefit the energy technical sector, and veterans’ high reliability and priority on safety make them desired hires in the energy sector. Energy jobs continue service for the country, increasing national security through energy independence and contributing to the American economy.

    As the nation’s advocate for veterans, we won’t rest until we will serve all of them as well as they have served all of us.

    Elisa Basnight is the Director for the Center for Women Veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

  • Of Selfless Sacrifice and Shared Burdens

    Clara Gantt Reunited with Husband

    Clara Gantt waited to be reunited with her husband, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War. She waited, and waited, and waited -- never to remarry. An American story of timeless love and loyalty was shared by the President during the annual Memorial Day remarks at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday.

    I was able to sit down with Ms. Gantt and her nephew for a special trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with the President over a Memorial Day breakfast, as well as other gold star families and several Veteran and Military Family Service Organizations.

    Ms. Gantt was elated at the chance to meet the Commander-In-Chief, and shared the story of her husband, who was captured in the Korean War, and presumed dead. For more than 60 years, the remains of the war hero, who was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, were never identified nor returned to the United States.

  • TAPS Celebrates the 20th Anniversary of Good Grief Camps on Memorial Day Weekend

    Memorial Day is a very poignant and somber reminder for all Americans of the lives that have been lost in service to our Nation. This Memorial Day weekend, as the new Executive Director of Joining Forces, I have the deep honor of attending and supporting the 20th Annual Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp for Young Survivors. These events, held in and around Washington DC, will have 4,000 participants this year -- more than 500 children. As a service member, and past participant in the Good Grief Camp, this weekend is especially meaningful. The loss and the grief for many is still fresh and for mentors and other volunteers -- the work is very personal. So too, is the national commitment to honoring the fallen and assisting their families -- thanks to organizations like TAPS.