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First Lady Speaks:

RALLY FOR SUPPORT: Mrs. Obama spoke to the military and their families at Camp Lejeune last week about ‘Joining Forces.’ Courtesy photo.

Last week I may have had a brief lapse of patriotism. I scoffed at the fact that our First Lady, Michelle Obama, was coming to Camp Lejeune, where my husband and I are stationed. I was already upset my husband had to report to duty his one day off to help with security. The thought of listening to a speech by someone who has no experience as a dependent furthered my foul mood.

“Way to be patriotic…” encore editor Shea Carver told me. It made me pause.

I’m patriotic 24 hours a damn day and twice on Sundays when Eric’s deployed, I thought.

Then, I chilled out, had a Milano cookie and reconsidered my apprehension toward the scheduled speech. Why was I so bitter about her visit? Isn’t this what we all want? Action made by Washington to connect and hear those they serve! Why do we, as Americans, bitch when officials attempt the effort—and bitch again when they don’t? They can’t win.
Ultimately, Shea had a point.

I wasn’t waving my flag high in the air, and I should have been regardless of my political standpoints. So, I dusted the dirt off, cleaned out my ears, gave the respect our First Lady deserved and listened.

Before 3,000 members of our military and their spouses in the Goettge Memorial Field House located on Camp Lejeune, Dr. Jill Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama, accompanied by General James Amos, the 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Major General Carl Jensen, the Commanding General of Marine Corps Installations East, spoke about one highly sensitive topic: military families. Part of a planned two-day tour, Dr. Biden and Obama picked Lejeune as their first stop to kick start their country-wide campaign for the new program, “Joining Forces.” According to The First Lady’s speech and the Joining Forces website, www.whitehouse.gov/joiningforces, the new initiative, launched last Tuesday in Washington, D.C., will take aim at educating, challenging and sparking action from all areas of society to ensure military families receive the support they have very much earned. Among the companies mentioned were Sears, K-Mart, SAM’s Club and Walmart.

“We’re going to focus on things that military families like yours have told us that you care about most,” Obama promised. “Things like employment and education and wellness and mental health. We want this country to know how extraordinary you are.”

Whether it was through job creation for veterans, raising awareness in schools for children of deployed parents or simply helping a neighbor shovel snow, Mrs. Obama  urged everyone to mobilize support for the people our troops care about most: their loved ones left on the home front. However, the chatter coming from many after the speech consisted of doubts. Some viewed it insincere; others made clear this “new” initiative to take care of military families isn’t new at all and has been taking place for decades. In fact, many insist the speech was nothing more than a horse-and-pony show meant to divert attention away from the near government shutdown that would have left our service members and their families without pay.

No matter which point one argues or defends, I’ll be honest with you: I think there’s something within Mrs. Obama’s words we can all find value in—to help give the silent ranks a more powerful voice and presence. The challenges and struggles spouses face within civilian communities should no longer be viewed as taboo. It’s OK to admit we have issues with the various battles that surround us, both domestic and abroad. Most importantly, it’s alright to seek and accept assistance. And, damn it, it feels good to be heard and acknowledged. Consider the phone call I made to K-Mart inquiring about their role with the Joining Forces initiative.

At first, I was hunting for information about their participation in the program. Yet as I was waiting for Heather (the associate with whom I was speaking) to gather information, she said something that rerouted my focus. I asked, “Do you know of any military spouses within your area?”

“No, I don’t know. I never thought to ask and I don’t think it’s appropriate to discuss my personal life on K-Mart’s time,” she said.

It blew me away.

Then, as if I was encroaching on private territory, she switched gears. “Would you like to purchase an electric gravy and sauce warmer? They are on special today from $20.99 to $24.99.”

It’s this lack of effort and concern that I believe the campaign could—if it’s not smoke and mirrors—really change. It could take the Heathers of society and make them more obligated to become aware. No matter Democrat or Republican, Joining Forces could make everyone more involved and provide a national platform military families and spouses (not just the troops) need. It was also flattering to hear the First Lady state our community, my community, of eastern North Carolina a fine example for the rest of the United States to follow when it comes to support. (Maybe Lowe’s and Home Depot in Jacksonville will advertise their 10 percent military discount now?)

In the end, here’s what I gained out of listening: I was reminded that I’m not the only one that has a bad day or two, or three, in this crazy life we call “Dependenthood.” It also inspired me to take a minute and really recognize those who have made my husband’s stressful tours a bit easier: my neighbors. Thank you for helping me with the little things: mowing my lawn, taking out my trash and calming me in a midnight nervous fit.

While I’m at it, I’d like to thank the cashier at Food Lion for always inquiring about my day and how my husband is. And I’d also like to thank Heather. No matter how upset I am toward the current administration or the fact that my husband is continuously called in on his day off, you, darling, are the best example why we should all come together and support anything positive geared toward the troops and their families. And, no, I don’t want a sauce and gravy warmer for $20.99. My neighbor is letting me borrow theirs.

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, 910tix.com. Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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