‘Service members cannot be focused on their mission if their families don’t have what they need to thrive at home,’ the first lady said in her announcement speech.
Wearing a necklace with a pendant bearing the name of her son Beau, Biden said her iteration of Joining Forces will focus on three items: employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for military families along with greater access to childcare, education for the more than 2 million children of enlisted parents and veterans, and the overall health and well-being of military families.
‘How can we hope to keep our military strong if we don’t give our family survivors and caregivers what they need to survive; if we don’t act on our sacred obligation? And that is why we’re here today and what Joining Forces is all about,’ she said.
Biden carried over her work with military families to the Biden Foundation after she left public life as second lady of the United States.
When Joe Biden was elected president, she announced she would restart her and Michelle Obama’s signature initiative, which saw the two women work together with military families and high-profile figures like Prince Harry.
Jill Biden launched the ‘next chapter’ of Joining Forces, the initiative for military families she started with Michelle Obama
The first lady wore a necklace with a pendant with the name of her son Beau; Beau Biden served in the National Guard before his death from cancer at 2015
Jill Biden talks to a staff member at Military One Source, an active duty military resource hub/call center for service members, their family and survivors, in Arlington, Va.
In her remarks at the White House, the first lady paid tribute to Michelle Obama, who started the project with her in 2011, and to her late son Beau, a National Guard veteran who died of brain cancer in 2015.
She also praised military families for the sacrifices they make.
‘Military families are as critical to our national defense as a rudder is to a ship, and we must always act upon that truth,’ she said.
She noted that just 1 per cent of the country serves in the all-volunteer military and that the Defense Department estimates a 22 per cent unemployment rate for military spouses.
‘We can’t expect to keep the best and brightest if our service members are forced to choose between their love of country and the hopes and dreams they have for their families,’ she said.
‘We have to help you carry this weight.’
Biden was joined at her announcement, virtually, by U.S. military families and others from around the world, a total of more than 100 people appearing in individual boxes on screens behind her on the stage.
The first lady visited military bases in California and Washington state earlier this month as part of a listening tour of families’ need. She’s also spoken with military children around the world via zoom to hear about their needs and met with military spouses.
Jill Biden was joined at her announcement, virtually, by U.S. military families and others from around the world, a total of more than 100 people appearing in individual boxes on screens behind her on the stage
Jill Biden speaks to military families after her announcement at the White House
Michelle Obama and Jill Biden started Joining Forces in 2011; above the two women with the Biden’s dog Champ held an event at the vice president’s house in May 2012
Jill Biden, Prince Harry, and Michelle Obama meet with military families at the White House during Prince Harry’s May 2013 visit to the United States
After her announcement on Wednesday, the first lady visited Military OneSource in Arlington, Va., a call center operated by the Defense Department that provides 24/7 support to service members and their families on a range of issues from health care questions to taxes.
Erika Slaton, the Associate Director of the center, told the first lady: ‘We have master’s level consultants that are available 24/7 by phone, and live chat, and one of the top requested services through Military OneSource is spouse employment, followed by non medical counseling for those everyday and military life issues, and then our tech services.’
Biden toured the center and asked staff about the calls they receive.
‘Thanks for helping our military members and their families … and making their lives easier,’ she told them.
She was accompanied in her visit by Charlene Austin, the wife of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and Hollyanne Milley, the wife of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman.
Biden has hit the ground running as first lady, taking on multiple roles and projects for her husband’s administration. She is helping him sell his American Rescue Plan to the public.
Her other causes are education – she is a teacher – and cancer research.