I went about getting breakfast ready for the boys, doling out waffles and cereal and glasses of milk as the sun streamed through the window. "July it the best month, Mommy." I raised an eyebrow at my youngest. "Oh yeah, why?" He took another bite. "Because we get to spend extra time with family and see fireworks and eat chicken legs. I love chicken legs." I smiled at the memory of our family gathering together for 4th of July events. "Yes, bud. We're lucky to live in a country where we're free to do those things." After having sat in on a call earlier this week with Dr. Jill Biden to learn more and discuss the Joining Forces initiatives, I felt that truth even more.
Credit: Dr. Jill Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama with Joining Forces (© Krista Kennell/ZUMAPRESS.com)
If you're not familiar with Joining Forces, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden came together to make the "comprehensive national initiative to mobilize all sectors of society to give our service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned." The initiative has been focusing on three pillars as they help service members, veterans and their families in various ways, those being Employment, Education and Wellness.
Employment is a hot button issue for all in our country right now, so hearing that the Joining Forces initiative has found jobs for 38,000 military spouses should encourage all military families. Additionally they continue to work to help veterans transition to civilian careers and have helped push through legislation to make spouse license portability happen faster so that spouses can get employed faster after a military move.
Education wise, Joining Forces works to make transitions easier on military kids. It's not easy to up-and-move to a new school, make new friends, learn all the customs of a new place. One thing that they have done that makes a differences is removing the penalization on age-based requirements for kids on a move. Meaning that if a child qualified for Kindergarten at their old school, but didn't meet age requirements at the new school, the child is allowed to continue on the path based on the original age requirements. Little things like that make a big difference to kids as they deal with living life in the military.
The conversation focused heavily on Wellness and what Joining Forces will be doing in the future to promote the health -- mental and physical -- of service members, veterans and families. From July to September, 152 mental health summits will take place at VA centers across the United States. The intent of these summits is to reach out to the community to find out what the VA cannot do, get feedback, and let that be the foundation from which they build on the Wellness pillar. "What is not be done," answers the question of where they are going with this pillar for the next year.
Of course, Dr. Biden also recognized that while the White House continues to find ways to support military families, military bloggers -- moms or not -- have already stepped to the plate when it comes to being a constant source of support that knows no physical boundaries. "In today's social media world, you all as bloggers have expanded what it means to be part of your community. You have taken the military community to a whole new level," Dr. Biden pointed out. We in the blogosphere recognize the beauty of support that comes from blog and social media interaction, and we know that our military bloggers bring their own beautiful and complex support to their virtual table on a daily basis. It's nice to know that the powers-that-be supporting our families recognize the hard work bloggers do in today's world.
As I sat down next to my kids this morning to plan out what we'll be doing on July 4th, I continued to remind them how lucky we are to live where we live, to have these freedoms that are protected by men and women in our military. "Like Daddy did?" I nodded. "Like Daddy did." Our family understands some of the hardships and battles facing military families even though my husband no longer serves. Maybe that's why I feel that the work of Joining Forces does to help service members, veterans and families is so important -- not just this week as we celebrate, but every day.
To each of our military bloggers -- in and out of our BlogHer network -- we salute the work you and your families do. We are honored to share the blogosphere with you and look to you to find how we may better support you and yours.
To learn more about Joining Forces and how you might get involved, check out the Joining Forces Get Involved section. In fact, this week might be the perfect week to send your own message of thanks to our service members.
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