WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Tuesday launched a national campaign for U.S. military families that calls on companies, individuals, civic and religious groups and schools to find ways to help veterans, reservists and their families navigate work, school, psychological stress and day-to-day life.
Think of the new Joining Forces initiative as the military version of first lady Michelle Obama's campaign against child obesity. It's a largely nonlegislative effort that puts the imprimatur of the White House and Cabinet agencies behind a nonpartisan cause and rewards organizations that step up by publicizing and praising their efforts.
The initiative is meant to outlast the war in Afghanistan and Barack Obama's presidency, and to create a permanent support network for a volunteer force that these days is only about 1 percent of the U.S. population.
Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Sears, Kmart, Siemens, Sears Holdings, Best Buy, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups announced commitments as part of Tuesday's launch. These include promises to hire service members and their spouses and to facilitate job transfers for those who must move as part of their service. They also include initiatives for job training and financial assistance.
The president's wife and Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, announced the effort at an event at the White House with their husbands.
Michelle Obama said the initiative was "a challenge to every segment of American society."
Jill Biden said individual Americans could do their part by arranging car pools, recreational activities and free professional services for the military families in their communities and showing them compassion and small acts of kindness. "Each American has the ability to make a difference in the life of a military family," she said.
The Joining Forces initiative is to be coordinated through the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based research center. An advisory board will include retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was forced from his post last year as the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after he and his aides mocked Obama administration officials in remarks published by Rolling Stone magazine, and Patty Shinseki, a longtime military spouse who is married to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.