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NEWPORT, R.I. - Thirteen Rhode Island military spouses enjoyed the opportunity of a lifetime when they met with First Lady Michelle Obama for a one-hour conversation at the Rhode Island National Guard Headquarters in Cranston, R.I., on Sept. 30.

CRANSTON, R.I. (Sept. 30, 2011) As part of Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden's initiative "Joining Forces," the First Lady spent time talking to spouses of military service members at the Rhode Island National Guard Headquarters in Cranston, R.I., on Sept. 30. (Photo by Army Sgt. Peter Ramaglia)The spouses represented all armed services from the U.S. Naval War College, in addition to the Newport Officers’ Spouses’ Club president, a representative from the Navy’s Senior Enlisted Academy, and two Rhode Island National Guard spouses.

As part of the national initiative "Joining Forces," Mrs. Obama and Dr. Jill Biden are highlighting issues that are of special importance to military families, including the areas of public awareness, employment, education, and wellness. Launched in April, the "Joining Forces" campaign aims to mobilize all sectors of society to give service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned.
 
In her opening remarks, Mrs. Obama explained how touched she is by the struggles and the challenges military families endure when they face frequent moves and deployments. She recognized the impact that has on spouse careers and children who attend numerous schools, while a parent may also be deployed and in harm’s way.
 
“And not coming from a military family, one of the voices or some of the voices that I always heard but were unfamiliar to me were your voices,” said Mrs. Obama as she talked about what led to the “Joining Forces” initiative. “Because in almost every group that I met with, not intentionally, but it was just how it happened, there were always military spouses, mostly women, and I was surprised by how surprised I was that I wasn’t familiar with your story.”
CRANSTON, R.I. (Sept. 30, 2011) Military spouses who had the opportunity to speak with First Lady Michelle Obama represented all services from the U.S. Naval War College, in addition to a representative from the Senior Enlisted Academy, and two Rhode Island National Guard spouses. (Photo by Cmdr. Carla McCarthy) 
During the conversation with the First Lady, Rhode Island’s military spouses raised issues such as licensure in teaching, nursing, and other professional careers; special education needs for children; the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on families; and the importance of military benefits.

Mrs. Obama will take their concerns and recommendations back with her as she continues to bring attention to the unique needs and strength of America’s military families through “Joining Forces,” while creating greater connections between the American public and the military.

Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden are asking Americans to get involved in any way they can. Military service members represent only one percent of the U.S. population, and Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden are advocating that 100 percent of Americans need to support troops and their families.

The “Joining Forces” website at www.whitehouse.gov/joiningforces includes ways to find service opportunities, pledge service hours or send messages of thanks.

By Cmdr. Carla McCarthy, NWC Public Affairs