Support of today's military families will one day expand to supporting gay military members and their families
First lady Michelle Obama took time out of her busy schedule on Sunday to speak to the service men and women at Camp Pendleton.
She spoke about family readiness and her efforts to ensure that military members and their families, who sacrifice so much for the country, are taken great care of.
The first lady's comments were preceded by Congresswoman Susan Davis and Senator Barbara Boxer, each of whom have also been strong supporters of the military and of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT).
Introduced by Lieutenant General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., a Marine with 30-plus years in uniform and current commander of the First Marine Expeditionary Force, Congresswoman Davis took the stage first.
Davis is the chairwoman of the Military Personnel subcommittee within the House Armed Services Committee. The subcommittee determines needs, services required and focuses on quality of life and other issues affecting military personnel. She commented on the smaller percentage of young Americans that are serving in the military today and reiterated her commitment to supporting both those troops and the families of those that serve.
Following Davis, Boxer took the stage and the opportunity to point out Michelle Obama's work to honor military families. She stressed that the first lady's door is always open to the concerns of our armed services and their families, and that means that the president's door is always open as well. She thanked the families and emphasized that when one family member sacrifices their time and service to the military, the whole family sacrifices.
Boxer said that her door is also always open to the needs of the military and listed off several programs she has voted for that have allowed for an increase in funding for services such as mental health, compensation and benefits; all ideas which have come directly from military spouses. She reiterated her continued commitment to stand with military families.
The first lady spoke last, and having just visited Marines housed in the state-of-the-art Wounded Warrior Battalion barracks, told the crowd she has gained immense inspiration from the recovery efforts of those wounded overseas.
Obama stressed her commitment to military families and thanked Sergeant Major Ramona D. Cook, Camp Pendleton's most senior enlisted member, for the ongoing efforts to ensure families are being taken care of there on base. She also thanked Boxer and Davis, referring to them as "tireless champions of men and women in uniform."
Calling San Diego one of Americas biggest and strongest military communities, Obama noted that military members are consistently the most inspiring people she has ever met; even more so than the Pope, the Queen of England and Paul McCartney. She took a moment to honor the Marines that have died this week in Afghanistan and reminded those listening to never forget or fail to support military families who suffer from constant fear and anxiety when their loved ones are in harm's way.
She reminded those in attendance that Americans have a moral obligation to support the military and raised a national challenge to support and even engage them. Obama emphasized that there was a definite need for a national commitment and said that even though only 1 percent are doing the fighting, there was no reason why 100 percent of Americans can't do something to support those fighting. She is also sending this challenge to the government to expand everything from military childcare to veterans health care.
One way the challenges experienced by military families are being better understood is through the Military Family Life Project, a service-wide survey designed to assess the impact of deployments. Obama reminded the crowd that military members need to be able to focus on the mission rather than benefits and the bureaucracy affecting their concerns at home. She saluted local San Diegan businesses for their efforts to support military personnel and said they were examples for other businesses across the country to emulate.
Obama concluded her remarks with a quote from a third grader's award-winning essay, "If you don't have a military hero yet, find a Marine and thank them."
What impact does Michelle Obama's visit and remarks have on the gay community at large?
The very real fact is that the end of DADT is very near. The repeal having already passed the House and the Senate Armed Services Committee, the bill is expected to pass on the Senate floor sometime in July.
A significant portion of our community here in San Diego is both gay and in the military and everything that affects straight military families also affects gay military families. It is important that these services are available to all military members. We are not there yet, but we are well on our way and continued support of this amazing group of individuals that make up the U.S. military and their families, is paramount.
On a side note: After Michelle Obama came off the podium, I was able to shake her hand and had the audacity to ask who she was wearing. She replied that her white and black geometric dress with a black studded belt was from Talbots.
Joey is a graduate of Southern Illinois University, 2010 graduate from Colorado Technical University with a MBA in marketing, a prior Marine and a triathlete. Originally from Illinois, he moved to San Diego in 2004 and fell in love. He writes for pleasure while traveling the world and continuing his education. He believes that experience is the spice of life and tries to find new things to see, do, and write about, everywhere he goes.