First lady Michelle Obama called on companies Thursday to recruit and hire members of the military and their spouses, saying they offer unique skills and qualities.
Mrs. Obama, the vice president's wife, Jill Biden, and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis visited a Sears shipping facility in Columbus as part of a tour to promote a new "Joining Forces" effort to boost support for U.S. service members and their families.
Mrs. Obama spoke to about 200 Sears employees who have a military connection. Standing in front of stacks of riding lawnmowers, she thanked them for their sacrifices.
The retailer employs more than 30,000 military veterans, more than 1,500 active service members and thousands of military spouses. In Columbus, the company has about 150 such employees.
Mrs. Obama highlighted businesses such as Sears that make it easier for employees to transfer jobs when their soldier spouses are transferred. Wal-Mart stores have offered a similar deal to the military spouses who work the company.
She said that with each new move, military spouses must begin a new job search.
"And that's not easy _ particularly when so many employers see a resume with multiple jobs as a red flag rather than as a reality of military life," she said. "The truth is that many employers today simply aren't aware of all that our veterans and military spouses have to offer."
She said members of military are skilled in advanced technology and have managed hundreds of colleagues. Their spouses work well with people of many different backgrounds and have an ability to adapt to changing circumstances and to multitask, "because you can't do this if you cannot multitask," she said.
The first lady urged business to be creative in ways that would benefit service members and their families.
For instance, she said Siemens is setting aside 10 percent of its open positions for veterans, while other technology companies, such as AOL, Indeed.com and Cisco, were helping to connect military spouses and veterans with prospective employers.
The "Joining Forces" initiative is aimed at helping military families who confront unique challenges, such as frequently moving or having a parent or spouse in wartime perils far away. Along with businesses, Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden are urging non-profits, schools and others to support families and help them tackle these issues.
Both women are advocates for military families. The Bidens' son Beau served in Iraq with an Army National Guard unit.
Their Ohio visit wraps up a two-day, four-state tour to promote the initiative. Their stops started Wednesday and included visits to North Carolina and Texas. Earlier Thursday, they greeted students at Fountain-Fort Carson High School in Fountain, Colo., where most students have a parent in the military and many have attended more than one high school.
The first lady urged the students to persevere.
"If you can do this, you can definitely go to college, right? You can definitely succeed in college," she said.
Celebrities have also joined them along the way to promote the effort; "MythBusters" stars Jamie Hyneman and Grant Imahara joined the Fort Carson event. In Columbus, Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers and Sesame Street's Elmo were to participate Thursday evening in a concert-style event to honoring National Guard members and their families.