First lady Michelle Obama said on Wednesday that many veterans want to serve their communities and nation in ways that "make their entire life a tour of duty."
Mrs. Obama also acknowledged the sacrifices that troops and their families endure under combat, saying they are "a tiny fraction of our population bearing the burden of eight years of war, serving tour after tour of duty, missing out on birthdays and anniversaries and those precious moments with the people that they love most."
She told service groups, students and veterans at George Washington University that what servicemembers learn abroad is very useful for communities trying to overcome challenges at home.
"For many of these folks, service is the air they breathe," she said. "They don't just want to serve for a certain number of years of deployment."
Communities need veterans' knowledge in technical skills such as engineering, logistics and public safety, she said.
"Whether it's running a rural health clinic or rescuing a community struck by a natural disaster, our veterans have what it takes for success," she said.
President Barack Obama signed into law earlier this year national service legislation that includes a Veterans Corps, designed to engage veterans in service.
The first lady appeared with Vice President Joe Biden's wife, Jill, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell's wife, Alma, at the event that promoted an initiative for uniting civilian and military service. The first lady encouraged the public to reach out to veterans and honor them by doing service of their own.
She said she's in awe of the sacrifices that are made by men and women in uniform, injured troops and military families.
Mrs. Obama also referred to those killed and injured at Fort Hood, saying the nation witnessed their family members' "courage and grace this past week in the aftermath of the unthinkable tragedy."
(This version CORRECTS that Mrs. Obama was referring to families of victims of Fort Hood shooting in last paragraph.)