Joining Forces Blog

  • LeVar Burton’s Memories Of A Military Childhood

    This post is cross-posted from the blog of Reading Rainbow. See the original post here.

    LeVar Burton of Reading Rainbow

    One of my most indelible memories from childhood comes from when my dad was stationed overseas in Germany when I was a kid. It wasn’t always easy living on base, where we didn’t have access to the most recent American movies, books, T.V. shows—all those pop-culture staples so important to schoolchildren. But that lack of access meant that the cultural staples we did have access to were devoured, treasured…and eventually bartered. American cultural items were currency to a military child, and the most valuable of that currency was comic books.

    When you lived on base, weekdays were for school, Sundays were for family, but Saturday mornings would find every kid out in the stairwells of the multi-story building we lived in, bartering and trading comic books. Each kid would set up “shop”, and the trading would begin. Imagine a cacophony of children’s voices and footsteps, running up and down from landing to landing, checking out each other’s supply, haggling over trades, eyes peeled for the newest issues and acquisitions. Each comic had a different value depending on the superhero, the child, and the household he or she lived in. You might be able to trade two Spidermans for one Batman, for example, or one new issue for two or three older issues.

    Eventually the trading would conclude—every kid happy with the trades they had made, or if not, there was always next week—and we would all go home to read the spoils of our bartering. If you were lucky you had enough to get you through the week to next Saturday. It was this experience as a child in a military family, and the excitement, comfort, and escape the comics provided, that helped spark my lifelong love of reading. Years have passed since those mornings spent trading comics on base, but the memory is as strong as ever.

    When a parent serves his or her country in the military, they don’t serve alone; their families and children serve as well. This week, in honor of “The Month of the Military Child,” we recognize the families and children of the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces.

    LeVar Burton was the host of the PBS children's television series Reading Rainbow, and is now the co-founder of RRKidz, Inc.

  • A Message From Space

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from Medium.

    Today, we received an important message from space:

    As a proud military mom, and grandmother to military-connected children, I couldn’t agree more with Captain Scott Kelly. We have asked a lot of our military families and I believe they deserve the very best efforts of each of us to show them how much we appreciate their service to our country. That is why First Lady Michelle Obama and I started Joining Forces four years ago: to unite non-profits, schools, foundations, businesses, associations, and Americans of every stripe around this initiative to support these families  -- not just in word on Veterans’ Day or Memorial Day, but with good deeds and best efforts, each and every day of the year.

  • Honoring Women Veterans

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's blog. See the original post here.

    It’s inspiring to see that after serving their country nobly in the armed forces, so many women and men veterans choose to continue working for the American people through Federal civil service.

    The President has made increasing the hiring of veterans, and particularly women veterans, a top priority. As a result, in fiscal year 2014, one in three new Federal hires was a veteran. The actual rate was 33.2 percent, up from 31 percent in fiscal year 2013.

    As leaders of the President’s Council on Veterans Employment, we share the President’s commitment to making sure that women leaving the military can easily transition to the Federal civil service. That’s why we created a women veterans initiative led by the Department of Homeland Security. Through that initiative, the Council today released a report that shows that nearly 24 percent of veterans hired in the civilian workforce in fiscal year 2013 were women vets, although women represent just 9 percent of all veterans.

    We can build on that. We know that women in general are underrepresented in the Federal workforce, especially in the skilled trades and law enforcement – two areas where many women veterans have significant expertise. We also know that women are statistically less likely to report their service when applying for new positions. We want to encourage them to make their military service known. We also want to help them find new opportunities to continue to serve their country through civilian public service, using the skills they honed while serving their country in the military.

  • @JoiningForces is Answering Your Questions to Celebrate Its 4th Anniversary

    The First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden launched Joining Forces in April 2011 to call on Americans across the country to rally around service members, veterans, and their families.

    This month, Joining Forces is celebrating its fourth anniversary! We're talking about how we can inspire, educate, and spark action from all sectors of society to ensure service members, veterans, and their families have the tools they need to succeed throughout their lives.

    Want to join the conversation? We'll be focusing on specific themes throughout the month. Around each theme, the Joining Forces team will be hosting a Twitter chat to answer your questions on mental health, homelessness, employment, and education -- and hear from you.

    Ask your questions and join the conversation now using the hashtags below, and we'll answer from @JoiningForces on the day of the chat!

  • Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart F. Delery Announces the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the blog of the United States Department of Justice. See the original here

    Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart F. Delery announced the creation of the Department of Justice’s Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative in a video. You can watch the video here.

    Acknowledging the Debt We Owe Servicemembers and Veterans Through a New Initiative

    Attorney General Holder has said that, although we can never hope to repay the debt of gratitude our nation owes the heroes who serve or have served in the Armed Forces, we must never forget to acknowledge what we owe. The Department of Justice is firmly committed to doing its part in acknowledging what we owe. That’s why I am proud to announce the Attorney General’s creation of the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative. This initiative will be led by three dedicated career Justice Department attorneys with strong ties to the military community. They will further the Department’s existing efforts by coordinating and expanding our enforcement, outreach, and training efforts on behalf of servicemembers, veterans, and their families. The initiative will address the unique challenges that servicemembers face while on active duty, that veterans face upon returning home, and that families face when a loved one is deployed.

    The sacrifices of our nation’s servicemembers go beyond the courageous act of putting themselves in harm’s way to defend our way of life. The sad fact is, they also face obstacles to exercising their civil rights and maintaining their families’ financial security. That is why the Justice Department prioritizes enforcing the statutes specifically created to protect the civilian employment rights, voting rights, and financial security of those serving in the Armed Forces.

  • President Obama’s Trip to Phoenix: Visiting Veterans in Arizona

    On Friday, President Obama traveled to Phoenix, AZ to visit the Phoenix VA medical facility and to participate in a roundtable discussion with the Veterans Administration Secretary Bob McDonald, Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson, and veterans to hear about the progress we've made to improve the VA’s ability to serve our veterans. 
    President Obama listens at announcement of MyVA

    President Barack Obama, with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald, left, Joe Robles, Chairman of the just-announced MYVA, and Sloan Gibson, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs, far right, listen to the comments of a veteran during a roundtable at the Phoenix VA Medical Center, March 13, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    While in Phoenix, the President announced the launch of an advisory committee: The MyVA Advisory Committee will advise the VA on additional ways the VA can work to improve customer service delivery and veterans’ outcomes. President Obama also charged the new committee with assessing what progress has already been made at the VA to improve veterans’ access to quality medical care.
    Secretary McDonald noted that the success of MyVa will be measured by veterans who were better served by the VA, and called its work “incredibly important.” The MyVA Advisory Committee is made up of private sector, nonprofit, and government leaders including: 
    • Maj. Gen. Josue “Joe” Robles Jr. – retired Army General, and retired President and CEO of USAA
    • Teresa Carlson – Vice President of Worldwide Public Sector Amazon Web Services
    • Herman Bulls - International Director and Chairman of Public Institutions at Jones Lang LaSalle
    • Michael Haynie, PhD - Vice Chancellor of Syracuse University
    • Delos “Toby” M. Cosgrove, MD - CEO and President of the Cleveland Clinic

    "It's important that veterans know that somebody's got their backs, and that, if there are problems, that we're not being defensive about it, not hiding it."

    — President Obama

    President Obama made one last surprise stop at the new home of Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg. Cory and President Obama have met a few times – six, to be exact – and the President wanted to stop by and see his new place. Cory, a wounded Army Ranger, just moved into a new home bought and renovated for him by volunteers, the Army Ranger Lead the Way Fund, and the Homes for Wounded Warriors foundation.