Joining Forces Blog

  • 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. 

  • Joining Forces and Operation Shower Support Military Moms in Florida

    Amanda Maysonet is a Navy spouse. Originally from the suburbs of Chicago, she and her husband, Christian, have been married for more than a year. They both take great pride in Christian’s service as a Navy Petty Officer and jet engine mechanic assigned to the Guided Missile Cruiser USS GETTYSBURG (CG 64), based in Mayport, Florida.

    It’s an exciting time for the Maysonets…they are expecting their first child in January!

    But unlike many expecting mothers, Amanda won’t have her husband by her side when their new addition joins the family. Christian and his 375 shipmates left on a nine month deployment back in July and they don’t return home until April of next year.

    Like thousands of military spouses every year, Amanda is prepared to welcome their little one to the family without her husband by her side. That’s not easy. Although military spouses are among the most resilient and independent people I know, they can also use a helping hand every once and a while.

    Recently in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, at the Web.com TOUR Championship, that helping hand got extended to Amanda – and 40 other expecting moms whose husbands are presently deployed overseas with the Navy – courtesy of Operation Shower and a whole host of supporting organizations. Operation Shower is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to provide joyful baby showers for military families to ease the stress of deployment. The shower in Ponte Vedra Beach honoring military families was sponsored by the Jim and Tabitha Furyk Foundation.

    Jim and Tabitha were on-site to host the event which included a brunch and generous set of gifts for all the expectant mothers. “We are thrilled to be involved with Operation Shower. Our military forces keep our country safe every day, and Operation Shower is a great opportunity to give back to their families in a meaningful way,” commented Tabitha Furyk.

    Operation Shower is also a proud participant in Joining Forces, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden’s nation-wide initiative to recognize, honor and support our nation’s veterans and military families – and not just through words, but through meaningful action. In April 2011, the First Lady and Dr. Biden launched Joining Forces. Among their first stops was an Operation Shower event for expecting mothers and spouses of deployed Marines in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.  

    More than two years and nearly twenty-five showers later, “Chief Shower Officer” LeAnn Morrissey says, “Operation Shower is honored to recognize the needs of military families.  Operation Shower was founded because we know that moms in a military family hold it all together at home – these moms deserve our support, our thanks, our love, and of course, they deserve a party! We’re grateful to work with such great partners as the PGA TOUR and the Jim and Tabitha Furyk Foundation and volunteers nationwide to be able to bring baby showers to military moms whose husbands are deployed overseas.”

    Amanda Maysonet and 40 other military moms in Florida benefitted from the generosity of a grateful nation today. Through Joining Forces, let’s continue to serve Amanda and all our military families as well as they have served this country.

    Colonel Rich Morales is Executive Director of Joining Forces.

  • Wellness Wednesday: Veterans' Health Care by the Numbers

    Today begins a series of blogs on 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.

    Joining Forces, along with the President, the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, and Health and Human Services, is committed to supporting the wellness of military service members, veterans, and their families.  Today, we’ll summarize the actions of the Administration that enable Veterans to pursue the American Dream, especially as it relates to health and wellness.

    Improving Mental Health Care

    The President has allocated funds to the VA to provide high-quality mental health services for veterans.

    $7 billion: dollars of the FY2014 Budget committed to continue expanding and transforming mental health services for veterans.

    1669: mental health professionals hired by VA to increase capacity to provide timely mental health services for veterans.

    800: peer-to-peer specialists the VA will hire by December 31, 2013

  • The Blackstone Group hosts Inaugural Veterans Hiring Summit

    On Monday, I had the pleasure of attending the Veterans Hiring Summit hosted by the Blackstone Group in New York City. In support of the Joining Forces initiative, the summit brought together seventy-eight of Blackstone’s portfolio companies to encourage them to contribute to Blackstone’s commitment to hire 50,000 American veterans over the next five years.

    The summit covered a variety of topics pertaining to hiring veterans, such as the strengths of the veteran applicant pool, coordination with local VA offices, and the role of mentorship in ensuring a positive transition to civilian life for those who have served our nation. The event was designed to help hiring executives within corporations learn how to attract, hire, and retain veterans.

    Joining Forces applauds Blackstone’s efforts in making sure our veterans find meaningful employment. They deserve jobs worthy of their talents – and thanks to organizations like the Blackstone Group this is becoming a reality for many veterans. Good civilian jobs not only help our veterans and military spouses manage the  transition from military to civilian life smoothly, but also demonstrate that our nation truly honors their service.