By Wendell Marsh
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House launched on Tuesday a "Joining Forces" initiative to encourage non-government support of the particular needs of military families.
Leading the initiative, First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, will travel to several locations across the country that provide examples of the initiative's core areas of supporting employment, education, and wellness of service members and their families.
"Joining Forces was created to recognize and serve our nation's extraordinary military families who, like their loved ones in uniform, serve and sacrifice so much so that we can live in freedom and security," Michelle Obama said in a statement.
"This is a challenge to every segment of American society not to simply say thank you but to mobilize, take action and make a real commitment to supporting our military families," she said.
The two-day tour will make stops at a non-profit support organization in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; a rehabilitation center in San Antonio, Texas; a baseball game in Denver, Colorado; and an employment event in Columbus, Ohio.
The initiative also launches JoiningForces.gov, a new website designed to be a resource for Americans wishing to support service members and their families.
The series of commitments involving the administration, businesses, nonprofits, and faith-based organizations will be coordinated by the Center for a New American Security.
Retired General Stanley McChrystal and Patty Shinseki, wife of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, will be two of the three members of a board directing the initiative's activities. The third member has yet to be named.
A long list of industry organizations have made commitments to directly support military families while several media organizations have pledged to help spread public awareness of the initiative's goals.
Some of the major commitments includes promises by Sears Holdings and Walmart to provide transfers to military personnel, veterans and their families who have to move due to duty assignments.
There are also commitments by Goodwill to hire military family members and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to host local job fairs.
The commitments in education focus on the needs of military children and develops programs for higher education and job training for military spouses and veterans, providing partnerships with National PTA, Best Buy's Geek Squad, McGraw Hill, and others.
"Joining Forces" leans on non-governmental actors and does not receive federal funding.
Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, applauded Obama's and Biden's leadership in addressing the needs of military families and urged a concerted effort.
"Their leadership in this space starts a long overdue dialogue at dinner tables across the country about the mounting challenges our military families face every single day," he said in statement emailed to Reuters.
"Our members need to see real action and significant resources deployed on the ground in their local communities to prove the White House really means business."
(Editing by Jerry Norton)
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