June 21, 2012

Biden Promotes Service to Military Families

Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
DoD photo  by Elaine Sanchez
Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, speaks about the value of military family support during a roundtable discussion at the Pentagon, April 10, 2012. The roundtable included Deanie Dempsey, wife of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, and honored the winners of the Joining Forces Community Challenge, which is an effort to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary military family support efforts of citizens and organizations across the country.

Dr. Jill Biden shed light on her message of rallying support for military families yesterday with a presentation before one of the world’s largest gatherings devoted to national serivce and volunteerism.

Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, spoke in Chicago at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service, which brought together an estimated 5,000 people to discuss ideas and challenges in community service. The conference is sponsored by Point of Light, a nonprofit born in 1990 out of former President George H.W. Bush’s call for volunteerism. The organization last year assisted 4.3 million volunteers and 77,052 partners in 20 countries, according to its website.

Biden, whose son served in the Army in Iraq, told the audience that one of the “best parts of my role as second lady is spending time with so many veterans and military families.” She said she always is inspired by their strength and resilience and said they represent only 1 percent of the U.S. population. That’s why, she said, she and First Lady Michelle Obama started the Joining Forces campaign to mobilize all of America to support troops, veterans and families.

Since then, Americans have stepped up in many ways, Biden said, either as individuals, congregations, communities or companies.  In collaboration with the Corporation for National and Community Service, Points of Light has facilitated volunteerism such as:

  • MissionServe and The Mission Continues that underscore the connection between military service and engaging returning veterans in civilian service;
  • Connecting thousands of veterans serving in AmeriCorps and SeniorCorps with 200 communities serving 700,000 military families in the next two years; and
  • Offering support to nonprofits like Operation Homefront and the National Military Family Association.

“This type of community support is absolutely critical to military families – not just while our troops are deployed … or when we welcome them home … but for the months and years after they return to their communities,” Biden said.

Today, the CNCS announced that more than 1,000 new AmeriCorps members – the largest in the agency’s history — will provide education, employment and other services to veterans and military families this year, White House officials said in a news release.

The new AmeriCorps members will add to the support of more than 140 organizations and at least 27,000 Senior Corps and AmeriCorps members to serve some 600,000 veterans and military families in more than 200 communities across the country, giving a major boost to the Joining Forces initiative, it says.

“Our servicemen and women risk everything to protect America. It is our solemn obligation to support them and their families when they come home,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. “At CNCS, we have taken this mission to heart. Serving and engaging veterans and military families is a top priority for us, and we are proud to make significant new investments to support those who have served.”

Spencer announced that CNCS will award more than $6.2 million in AmeriCorps grants to the American Legion Auxiliary, AMVETS, the California Department of Veterans Affairs, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, Points of Light, Rebuilding Together, the Washington Vet Corps, and others.

AmeriCorps members will provide services including job placement, behavioral health counseling, community rehabilitation and reintegration projects, homeless veteran support and financial literacy, and tutoring children of deployed service members, she said.

More than 16,000 military veterans have already served as AmeriCorps members, Koby J. Langley, CNCS’ senior advisor for wounded warrior, veterans and military family initiatives, said.

“The skills and leadership abilities forged in the hills of Afghanistan and sands of Iraq can be applied to solving problems here at home,” he said. “AmeriCorps offers an opportunity to continue serving on a different battlefield, helping meet challenges in our communities.”

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