Last Friday, I was honored to spend the day with Marines and families preparing for deployment at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. It was a very special day. As Second Lady, there is nothing I enjoy more than visiting our military and their families. I am honored that they share their successes, pride, and challenges with me, and that when I bring their concerns back to the White House, they help shape policy. But as a military mom, these visits are also personal. Each Marine I met on Friday is someone’s son or daughter, and I know well the mixture of pride and worry a family member feels when a loved one is preparing to go to war.
In the morning, I visited with Marines in combat training at the Infantry Immersion Trainer. I viewed a combat simulation exercise at the state-of-the art facility that is designed to resemble an Afghan village, down to every detail. The training is intended to prepare deploying Marines for the stress of combat. The visit made a deep and lasting impression on me, and it was a firm reminder of what our troops and their families sacrifice for us every single day – half a world away. After the simulation, I met with Female Engagement Team members preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. These young women go on foot patrols with Marine infantry units on the front lines in Afghanistan to interact with Afghan women and girls. I was inspired by their courage and determination, and their pride in what they do.
Our next stop was Family Day with members of the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Company and their families. The EOD team performs missions in extremely dangerous conditions, and they have very high injury rates. Almost all of the EOD team members I met are married, and many have young children – who also sacrifice every day while their Marines are in harm’s way. After lunch, I stopped at the EOD “hero wall,” a photo memorial honoring fallen Marines and Sailors. I will never forget their faces. One Marine – speaking of a fallen warrior – told me “he saved my life.”
I ended the day with wounded warriors at the Warrior Hope and Care Center with my husband Joe. We spent some time visiting with wounded Marines and sailors. Many of them shared with me the invisible wounds that accompany their physical injuries. Their struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury are as real as their outward injuries, and I admire their strength and courage.
It was an emotional and incredible day. I am honored to have the opportunity to raise awareness about the wonderful men and women in our military. I want them all to know how much we appreciate them while they are here, while they are deployed, and when they return. And, that we will never forget the memory of our fallen heroes.
God bless our troops.