This morning, I had the honor of being invited by the Office of the First Lady to attend a virtual announcement of the reinstatement of Joining Forces as part of a virtual press pool. Personally, I was thrilled, since nearly four years ago to the day, I was invited by the Obama White House to attend one of the last Joining Forces press events.
I took attending very seriously because I think it’s important for me to share and pass on this information to you. You’re a member of the military community. You should know what’s going on and what’s happening locally and nationally and how it effects you and your military journey.
So, let’s talk about Joining Forces. First, some very fast history.
Joining Forces originated during the Obama Administration. It was a program that focused on the needs of military connected families by connecting the government, nonprofit, and private organizations and individuals. Dr. Biden was a driver behind Joining Forces in the Obama Administration, so it’s no surprise that it’s back in the White House now that the Biden Administration is governing.
In fact, Joining Forces was a priority even before the 2021 inauguration. Dr. Biden wanted to stand up Joining Forces within the first 100 days of the Biden administration and conducted extensive listening tours with individuals and nonprofits connected to the military community to see what military families, veteran families, caregivers, and survivors need.
During the event today, Dr. Biden said this, which I think perfectly encapsulates the drive she very obviously has for making military families’ lives better: “How can we hope to keep our military strong if we don’t give our families, survivors, and caregivers what they need to thrive? That’s what Joining Forces is about.”
Today at the announcement, Dr. Biden outlined three large, audacious goals for Joining Forces going forward:
1) Joining Forces is going to focus on employment and entrepreneurship. They’re going to focus on some of the very real, very large barriers to military spouse employment. We’ve talked about some of them on Jo, My Gosh! including the lack of access to affordable child care and professional licensing requirements. Joining Forces is also going to make sure that military-connected families are specifically remembered when crafting White House economic policies.
2) Joining Forces is going to focus on military child education. Joining Forces wants to actively support the two million US military kids around our nation and world, including those who belong to National Guard and Reserve families. This looks like supportive programming and taking closer looks at how the strain of military life affects educational achievement. Joining Forces has also committed to especially emphasizing military children who are part of EFMP and have special needs.
3) Joining Forces is going to focus on health and well-being issues of military families. This includes recognizing the need for better mental health initiatives for military-connected families, food insecurity (which has grown exponentially during COVID and quarantine), and the unique stresses of military caregiving.
During her remarks, Dr. Biden noted that she hopes Joining Forces will become a permanent part of the White House, so that it continues to serve military families long after the Biden Administration is gone.
Okay, so what does this mean for my military family?
Today is just Day 1, so there is a lot to be filled in. We’ll have to see how things begin rolling out! However, personally, I love that Dr. Biden is a military mom, has experienced deployment, and has spent years advocating for military families. (Her father also served in the Navy during WWII and used the original GI Bill to earn a higher education.) It’s also very important to note that Director of Joining Forces is a Marine veteran spouse– so she has also experienced many of these issues and concerns first hand. There are notable military organizations and nonprofits that are signing onto work on these initiatives with Joining Forces and the Biden administration.
It’s pretty clear from the choices in leadership and the speed at which Joining Forces is being reintroduced that Joining Forces is a priority for the First Lady and, subsequently, that the needs of military families will have a seat at the table within the Biden administration. And that’s always a good thing!
I’ll leave you with this quote from today from Dr. Biden: “Military and veteran families, caregivers and survivors may not wear a uniform, but you serve and sacrifice for us all. So much of a ship’s power is unseen beneath the waves: the engines, the anchor, the rudders that give it direction and purpose. You are the rudder that steers our military, and supporting your physical, social and emotional health is a national security imperative.”