American Forces Press Service
Nov. 11, 2009 - First Lady Michelle Obama today urged all Americans, including military veterans, to put their skills to use in volunteer service to assist U.S. communities and citizens in need. "One of the greatest privileges that I have as First Lady is the chance to meet with veterans and to meet with servicemembers and their families all across America," Obama said at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium during the announcement of ServiceNation's Mission Serve volunteer-initiative program.
ServiceNation is a national campaign that encourages service and volunteerism as a means to help address homelessness, unemployment, under education, crime, mental illness and other societal problems.
America's servicemembers, veterans and their families inspire a "sense of awe – true awe," Obama said, through their service and sacrifice to the nation.
And America's veterans, she said, can channel their energy, skills, experience and commitment into the performance of volunteer service.
"What they've learned standing watch over the homeland and fighting wars abroad is precisely what we need to meet our biggest challenges here at home," Obama said. "And that's whether it's turning around a failing school or managing a big-city homeless shelter – we need that energy; 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."
For example, as part of Mission Serve's 35 public-private partnership initiatives, Obama said, wounded warriors are mentoring young people and combating gang violence.
And, "veterans are building homes in New Orleans, and working to reduce the dropout rate in Boston and Philadelphia, and helping their fellow veterans reintegrate into communities all across America," the First Lady said.
Supporting servicemembers as they go off to war "requires an active citizenship," Obama said.
"The freedoms they fight for are ones that every single one of us enjoys," she pointed out.
"So it's up to every single one of us to honor their service with service of our own," Obama said. "It's up to us to recognize our veterans not just for all they've done for this country – but for all they will continue to do for this country.
"That's what Mission Serve is all about," she said.
Dr. Jill Biden, spouse of Vice President Joe Biden, and Alma J. Powell, chair of America's Promise Alliance and spouse of former Secretary of State and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff retired Army Gen. Colin Powell, accompanied Obama at the ceremony.
Dr. Biden and Mrs. Powell, Obama said, take great interest in programs that assist servicemembers, veterans and their families. The Bidens' son, Beau, an Army captain, recently returned home from a year of duty in Iraq.
The concerns of servicemembers, veterans and their families "are our top priority," Biden said. "And, we are working hard to expand access to child care, to improve housing conditions and to provide quality care and treatment for our wounded warriors."
Meanwhile, Biden said, everything that citizens can do to support and recognize the nation's servicemembers and veterans can make a real difference.
"On Veterans Day and every other day it's our sacred duty to honor the service of those who sacrifice for our country – and we can all play a role," Biden said.
"I hope that all of us will pause today and think about how we can join in this call for service," she added. "I know what an impact it will have."
Biden thanked ServiceNation and its partners "for giving Americans concrete ways to participate" in programs that help servicemembers, veterans and their families.
Mrs. Powell received ServiceNation's inaugural Award for Excellence in Military and Civilian Service at the ceremony.
She said that she shares the award "with many military families and countless Americans who step forward every day to help make life better for those around them."
Prior to the ceremony, Mrs. Powell said, volunteers at George Washington University's Marvin Center wrote letters to servicemembers and their families and assembled care packages for troops.
"Efforts like this, and the larger effort behind the ServiceNation civilian-military initiative, are essential, vital to the well-being of our American community," she said.
It takes all citizens "to build a stronger America," Mrs. Powell said, involving partnerships between civilians and military members, schools and communities, and public and private sectors.