Washington, D.C. - Mrs. Michelle Obama and Mrs. Laura Bush shared the stage at the National Archives Building on Friday for "First Ladies: In Service to Our Nation," an event to recognize the sacrifices our nation’s finest - as well as what we can do to return the favor.
At the bipartisan event, the two first ladies, who participate in the Joining Forces coalition, shared how they coped in the White House during a time of war. They also discussed some of the initiatives they’ve been championing to improve the lives of veterans when they return home from the battlefield.
“Joining Forces has been a call to partnership,” Mrs. Obama said. “What we have seen is that when you ask, people step up without hesitation. The business community has created millions of jobs for veterans, helping them get training and advance within jobs.”
Additionally, she noted that local leaders, mayors and governors have answered the call to end veteran homelessness. Woodruff noted that it must be working because the rate of unemployment for vets is now lower than the civilian rate.
In addition to tackling unemployment, Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Bush are determined to helping heal veterans’ invisible wounds.
The unseen injuries, Mrs. Bush explained, are the most long-lasting. It’s for this reason that she and her husband, former President George W. Bush, are helping people recover through sport. That’s the whole idea behind the Invictus Games, she explained. There are a lot of benefits of being outside for mental health.
“George is also trying to take the ‘D’ out of the PTS,” she added. It’s time to end the stigma that post traumatic stress is a disorder. It’s not, she insisted. It’s an injury from which they can improve.
Woodruff then switched the conversation to military spouses. Mrs. Obama smiled when talking about their intelligence and resilience, yet noted that many of them have had their careers disrupted. She was pleased to tell the crowd that all 50 states now have some sort of legislation to ease guidelines for military spouses when it comes to attaining professional licenses.
“We would have never known” their needs had she not had those conversations with them, the First Lady said..
When asked if they had any advice for the next administration as to how to deal with foreign policy, Mrs. Obama asked they put veterans first.
“I would hope that the next administration would prioritize our service members and families,” she said. “It should be high on the list. The First Family has an obligation to set that tone.”
Particularly, she said, when it comes to our Gold Star families.
“There’s plenty for the next administration to do,” she continued. “We need to make sure we never go back to the time of the Vietnam War.”
Obama said she often cries tears of pride for our veterans.
“I am moved by this community,” she said. “We can’t just talk strong defense if we’re not taking care of these men and women.”
There is nothing sweeter, the first ladies intoned, then watching a wounded veteran go from traumatic injury to victory.