First lady wants next White House to keep focus on military


WASHINGTON (AP) — Michelle Obama said Thursday that the next White House occupant should continue to make a “national priority” of supporting service members, veterans and their families, as she has tried to do with a nationwide initiative marking its fifth anniversary.

Mrs. Obama and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, created “Joining Forces” in 2011 to help retiring and returning service members find jobs, help spouses transfer professional licenses after they move to another state and provide other support.

The first lady said Thursday that more than 1.2 million veterans and spouses have been hired or trained since the launch.

She also announced that 40 companies have pledged to hire more than 110,000 veterans and spouses over the next five years. Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, appeared with her and said the online retailer will hire 25,000 veterans over the period, nearly one-fourth of the total.

Mrs. Obama said service members don’t stop learning when they hang up the uniform and are eager to “find their next mission” and use their training and talent to serve the country as home. Giving them the opportunity is the least the nation can do, she told an audience of business leaders.

“So we need to keep up this momentum,” the first lady said. “And I will say this again and again and again: No matter who is in the White House next, this should absolutely continue to be a national priority with national leadership coming from this building.”

The announcement was part of a monthlong series of events by Mrs. Obama and Jill Biden to mark the program’s anniversary.

President Barack Obama, Biden and their wives were headed to nearby Andrews Air Force Base later Thursday to open a USO comedy show in observance of Military Appreciation Month. The event marks the “Joining Forces” anniversary and the 75th year of the USO, a military service organization.

Former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart is headlining the extravaganza for some 1,500 service members and their families. David Letterman, former host of “The Late Show,” is scheduled to appear, and producer and writer Judd Apatow is among the comedians who are expected to perform.

Obama leaves office in January.

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