Over the past few years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to spend time with our veterans, troops and military families. With every visit, I come away inspired.
They are military spouses, who balance work, family and school — all while dealing with the emotions of a deployment. They are military children, who move from school to school while picking up extra chores while their dad or mom is away serving our country. They are survivors of our fallen, who are pillars of strength for their communities. And of course, they are our troops, veterans and wounded warriors, who have dedicated their lives to defending America.
That’s why one year ago, first lady Michelle Obama and I launched Joining Forces, an initiative to bring Americans together to recognize, honor and serve our nation’s veterans and military families. Joining Forces focuses on three key areas — employment, education and wellness — while raising awareness about the service, sacrifice and needs of our troops, veterans and their families.
When we first started thinking about this concept, we were pretty confident that Americans would answer the call. But the response we’ve seen in our first year has been simply overwhelming.
When we encouraged America’s businesses to hire our veterans and military spouses, more than 1,600 of them joined in — from Sears and Safeway to Siemens and Snap-On Tools. Already, they have hired more than 70,000 veterans and military spouses, and they have pledged to hire at least 160,000 more in the coming years.
Since the Military Spouse Employment Partnership launched last June, more than 22,000 military spouses have been hired. Just last week, I was pleased to announce another 34 companies have signed on to the partnership, which already includes 100 Fortune 500 “Plus” employers.
When we looked to America’s healthcare providers, 135 medical schools, more than 500 nursing schools and more than 3 million healthcare providers stepped up and said they would work to improve care for veterans and military families.
When we asked educators to meet the needs of our military-connected students, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and the Military Child Education Coalition started Operation Educate the Educators to encourage teacher colleges to adopt guiding principles to better prepare educators.
States across the country are implementing the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, which helps ease some of the many challenges military children face when transferring schools due to a parent’s reassignment. In April, Georgia became the 42nd state to enact the compact.
When we asked Americans to find ways to honor our military families, they answered by giving more than 13 million volunteer hours right in their own communities.
It has happened over and over again — from faith communities to high schools, to state legislatures and everywhere in-between — every time we have issued a call, Americans have stepped up to support these brave families.
The best part about this effort is that everyone can find some way to give back. It might be sending care packages or messages of thanks. It might be volunteering with a veterans service organization in your area, or it might be putting a focus on military families through your business, organization, school or faith community.
This Memorial Day, I am asking you to please visit JoiningForces.gov, where you can see what others are doing and learn about more than 50,000 service opportunities.
There is more work to be done. If every American can find his or her own way to serve — if we all join forces — then we can show our servicemen and women, our veterans and our military families that all the love, support and action from this past year is simply the beginning.
Biden is second lady of the United States. Learn more about the Joining Forces initiative by visiting JoiningForces.gov, liking Joining Forces on Facebook and following @JoiningForces on Twitter.