Category Archives: military families

Holidays at the White House 2013: Gingerbread White House, the National Tree, Decorations


Building the 2013 Gingerbread White House

As part of White House holiday tradition, the State Dining Room is home to the famous gingerbread house. Over the course of several weeks, Pastry Chef Bill Yosses and his talented team created a 300-pound, edible White House replica. This year’s creation features a mini Bo and Sunny sitting on the front steps of the house lit from within, and a functioning replica of the North Lawn fountain. Dec. 9, 2013


National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony 2013

The President:

“Merry Christmas, everybody! Well, this show is always a great way to get in the holiday spirit. Every year, I rehearse my own little act, just in case. But it seems like, yet again, they couldn’t find space to squeeze me into the program. (Laughter.) You are lucky I’m not singing.

First of all, let me thank Secretary Jewell and welcome her to her first Christmas Tree Lighting. She is doing a great job for our national parks. She used to run one of America’s biggest outdoor recreation companies, and now she’s charged with protecting the great outdoors for all of us. So we appreciate her and we want to thank Neil Mulholland and the whole National Park Foundation and National Park Service team for helping to put this beautiful production together.

Let’s also give it up for Jane Lynch and all the great performers who are doing an incredible job putting us in a festive mood tonight. (Applause.) And to all Americans who are here today and watching at home, we are so glad to be part of this wonderful holiday tradition.

For 91 years, the National Christmas Tree has stood as a beacon of light and a promise during the holiday season. During times of peace and prosperity, challenge and change, Americans have gathered around our national tree to kick off the holiday season and give thanks for everything that makes this time of year so magical — spending time with friends and family, and spreading tidings of peace and goodwill here at home and around the world.

And this year, we give a special measure of gratitude for Nelson Mandela, a man who championed that generosity of spirit. (Applause.) In his life, he blessed us with tremendous grace and unbelievable courage. And we are all privileged to live in a world touched by his goodness.

Each Christmas, we celebrate the birth of a child who came into the world with only a stable’s roof to shelter Him. But through a life of humility and the ultimate sacrifice, a life guided by faith and kindness towards others, Christ assumed a mighty voice, teaching us lessons of compassion and charity that have lasted more than two millennia. He ministered to the poor. He embraced the outcast. He healed the sick. And in Him we see a living example of scripture that we ought to love others not only through our words, but also through our deeds.

It’s a message both timeless and universal — no matter what God you pray to, or if you pray to none at all — we all have a responsibility to ourselves and to each other to make a difference that is real and lasting. We are our brother’s keeper. We are our sister’s keeper.

And so in this season of generosity, let’s reach out to those who need help the most. In this season of reflection, let’s make sure that our incredibly brave servicemembers and their families know how much we appreciate their sacrifice. And there are several military families and servicemen and women here tonight. We are so grateful to you for all that you do. (Applause.)

In this season of hope, let us come together as one people, one family to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to keep America the land of endless opportunity and boundless optimism for which we’re so thankful.

So on behalf of Malia, Sasha, Marian, the First Lady Michelle, plus Bo and Sunny, I want to wish everybody a Merry Christmas and a joyful holiday season. God bless you. God bless our troops. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)”

Source: http://1.usa.gov/IMcFlN


First Lady Michelle Obama Previews the 2013 White House Holiday Decorations

The First Lady:

“And that actually brings me to this year’s official White House holiday theme, which is “Gather Around: Stories of the Season.” This holiday season, we’ll be focusing on the stories behind classic American holiday traditions — traditions celebrated here at the White House and across the country. Our goal is for every room and every tree to tell a story about who we are and how we gather around one another to mark the holidays.

And that starts with all of you — literally. In fact, when visitors arrive, the very first thing they’ll see is a tree decorated to pay tribute to our Armed Forces. This tree, graced with special Gold Star ornaments, tells the story of some of our greatest heroes: Those who gave their lives for our country. And any Gold Star family who visits the White House can create their own ornament to honor their loved one. In addition, everyone who visits this White House this year gets a chance to fill out an Operation Honor Card pledging to serve their community in honor of our military families, your servicemembers, your veterans, whoever you choose, just find a way to serve.

We also have an entire room — it’s right next door, it’s the Blue Room, one of my favorite rooms — dedicated to the idea of gathering around our military. The tree in that room is decorated with holiday greeting cards drawn by military children from bases all across the country as a way to celebrate their parents’ service. And they’re beautiful, they’re really sweet cards.

So that’s how we’ll be honoring our veterans and servicemembers and their families this holiday season. And I would ask during this time that every American find a way to honor these great Americans, not just during the holidays, but every day. And let us never forget the debt that we owe these men and women and their amazing families.

As for the rest of the house, because there is more, we have a number of special touches that build on our “Gather Around: Stories of the Season” theme. In the East Garden Room, you’ll see Christmas trees made entirely of stacks of books. You may have seen those coming in, they’re very cool. In the Cross Hall, you’ll see trees reflecting the idea of gathering around our heritage. They’ll be decorated with ornaments representing great American sites like the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore, and there’s some silhouettes of people you might know today in history, so you guys will look and see if you recognize anyone.

And of course, we have our usual first dog display. This year, Bo will be joined by his little sister Sunny, our new pup, and the two of them will be surrounded by books. And I was surprised to see last night, this year they actually move. They’re mechanical. This is a new step. We’re stepping up in the world of Bo-and-Sunny honoring. And these are just a few of this year’s highlights.

Although people who visit the White House will see dozens of trees and wreaths, they’re going to see thousands of ornaments and they’re going to see a gingerbread house that weighs about 300 pounds — it’s pretty big — some of the best sights they’ll see are kids enjoying all of this just wonderful glory. Some of the best times in this White House is just watching the faces of kids as they walk through this house and count the trees and look at the ornaments.

And none of this would be possible without the 83 volunteers like Diane who came from all across the country to help us decorate, once again, sacrificing, leaving their families — because they start decorating this house the day after Thanksgiving. It would not be possible for us to do all of this without our volunteers. They are a pleasure to work with, they are high-energy, they are positive. And just look around. I mean, every year they just outdo themselves. So we are just so grateful for their hard work and enthusiasm.

Now, over the course of this season, about 70,000 people will come to see our holiday decorations — not bad. And I can’t imagine a better group of people than all of you to be our very first guests. Don’t you feel special? No one has seen these, not even the President has seen these. (Applause.) He hasn’t seen them yet. You guys are the first.

And truly, it is a treat to make you all the first every season, because you all do so much for us. And we are so proud and so honored and so grateful. And we just want to give you a chance to bring your families in to just get a little special something just to remind you just how special we all think you are.”

Source: http://1.usa.gov/191xLqu

Advertisements

First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at Disney’s Veterans Institute, 11/14/13

White House:

First Lady Michelle Obama delivered the keynote address at Disney’s first-ever Veterans Institute workshop at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL. The event brought together business experts, government officials, veterans and leaders from non-profit veterans service organizations to share experiences, best practices, and tips for making a successful transition from the military to the civilian workforce.

Disney Hosts the Veterans Institute Workshop to Support Transitioning Service Members And Their Families

by Col. Rich Morales, Executive Director of Joining Forces

On behalf of the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden, I want to congratulate Disney for hosting the first-ever Veterans Institute workshop. This day-long event encouraged companies from across the U.S. to hire, train, and support our nation’s military service members and their families as they transition to civilian life. Since launching Joining Forces two and half years ago, companies across the U.S. have answered the call to support our nation’s military communities by hiring more than 380,000 veterans and military spouses – with nearly 100,000 being hired in the past six months.

Over the next five years, more than a million service members will be hanging up their uniforms, and transitioning out of the military to pursue civilian careers. Ensuring that these men and women have the resources and the employment opportunities to transition successfully is critical. They finished their service to our nation, now they deserve to come home without worrying about the struggles of finding meaningful employment.

“When you hire a veteran, you’re not just giving a highly qualified employee the chance to help your company succeed,” explained the First Lady at the Veterans Institute workshop. “You’re giving that hero’s family the security that comes with a steady paycheck.”

Even though our veterans are well-deserving and some of the most qualified and dedicated workers out there, far too many will face difficulties securing a job in the civilian workforce. Through the Joining Forces Initiative, the First Lady and Dr. Biden challenged companies to help alleviate employment hurdles by recognizing the skills and talents of our veterans and to hire as many as possible.

“Hiring veterans is the smart thing to do for your businesses – because veterans are some of the highest-skilled, hardest-working employees that you can find,” explained the First Lady on the importance of hiring veterans. “And we’re counting on all of you to ensure that these veterans can get the good jobs they deserve. “

Companies are stepping up; for example, Starbucks just announced that over the next five years, they plan to hire 10,000 veterans and military spouses. We also have companies like AT&T and Facebook doubling their veteran hiring commitments. We have made significant progress in helping our veterans find employment – but we still have a long road ahead of us.

“And we’re not going to stop until all of our veterans know that when they hit that job market, their skills will be rewarded,” said Mrs. Obama.

On behalf of the First Lady and Dr. Biden, I would like to encourage all companies and organizations to keep this momentum going and to continue hiring new veterans. Together, we can support and serve those who sacrificed to protect our freedoms.

Source: http://1.usa.gov/1gPhSYf

President Obama observes Veterans Day, 11/11/13

THE PRESIDENT:

“Today, we gather once more to honor patriots who have rendered the highest service any American can offer this nation — those who fought for our freedom and stood sentry for our security. On this hillside of solemn remembrance and in veterans’ halls and in proud parades across America, we join as one people to honor a debt we can never fully repay….

They fought on a green at Lexington so that we could make independent the country they imagined. They fought on the fields of Gettysburg so that we could make whole a nation torn asunder. They fought on the beaches of Europe and across Pacific islands. And from their sacrifice we emerged the strongest and most prosperous nation in the history of the world. And this year, as we mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the fighting in Korea, we pay special tribute to all those who served in the Korean War….

On tour after tour after tour, in Iraq and Afghanistan, this generation — the 9/11 Generation — has met every mission we have asked of them. And today we can say that because of their heroic service, the core of al Qaeda is on the path to defeat, our nation is more secure, and our homeland is safer.

They’re men and women like the soldier — and soon to be veteran — I met a few months ago, Jacare Hogan. Jacare deployed to Iraq twice, and she survived not one, but two –- excuse me, three separate IED explosions. And when she was well enough, she deployed again, this time to Afghanistan, where she was often the only woman at our forward operating bases. She proudly wears the Combat Action Badge. And today, Jacare is committed to helping other wounded warriors recover from the trials of war. “Helping the troops,” she says, “is what I’m all about.” My fellow Americans, that’s what we should be all about.

Our work is more urgent than ever, because this chapter of war is coming to an end. Soon, one of the first Marines to arrive in Afghanistan 12 years ago — Brigadier General Daniel Yoo — will lead his Camp Pendleton Marines as they become one of the last major groups of Marines to deploy in this war. And over the coming months, more of our troops will come home. This winter, our troop levels in Afghanistan will be down to 34,000. And by this time next year, the transition to Afghan-led security will be nearly complete. The longest war in American history will end. (Applause.)

As is true after every conflict, there is a risk that the devoted service of our veterans could fade from the forefront of our minds; that we might turn to other things. But part of the reason we’re here today is to pledge that we will never forget the profound sacrifices that are made in our name. Today reminds us of our sacred obligations. For even though this time of war is coming to a close, our time of service to our newest veterans has only just begun….

And that’s why, as Commander-in-Chief, I’m going to keep making sure we’re providing unprecedented support to our veterans. (Applause.) Even as we make difficult fiscal choices as a nation, we’re going to keep making vital investments in our veterans. We’re going to keep improving veterans’ health care, including mental health care so you can stay strong. We’re making sure that veterans not covered by the VA can secure quality, affordable health insurance.

We’re going to keep reducing the claims backlog. We’ve slashed it by a third since March, and we’re going to keep at it so you can get the benefits that you have earned and that you need, when you need them. (Applause.) We’re going to keep helping our newest veterans and their families pursue their education under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. We just welcomed our one millionth student veteran, and we’re ready for all those who come next.

And we’re going to keep demanding that the rights and dignity of every veteran are upheld, including by pushing for the Disabilities Treaty so that our disabled veterans enjoy the same opportunities to travel and work and study around the world as everybody else. (Applause.) And with the help of Michelle and Dr. Jill Biden and Joining Forces, we’re going to keep fighting to give every veteran who has fought for America the chance to pursue the American Dream — a fair shot at the jobs and opportunity you need to help us rebuild and grow here at home. Because you’re bringing home the skills and the work ethic and leadership necessary to start companies and serve your communities and take care of your fellow veterans.

And that’s our promise to you and all who have served: to be there, to support you, when you come home — every step of the way. And as a nation, we will strive to be worthy of the sacrifices that you’ve made. That’s what we owe all our veterans. That’s what we owe veterans like Richard Overton, who served in the Army in World War II. He was there, at — (applause) — now, everybody, I want you to know a little something about Mr. Overton here. He was there at Pearl Harbor, when the battleships were still smoldering. He was there at Okinawa. He was there at Iwo Jima, where he said, “I only got out of there by the grace of God.”

When the war ended, Richard headed home to Texas to a nation bitterly divided by race. And his service on the battlefield was not always matched by the respect that he deserved at home. But this veteran held his head high. He carried on and lived his life with honor and dignity. He built his wife a house with his own two hands. He went back to work in the furniture business. In time, he served as a courier in the Texas State Capitol, where he worked for four governors, and made more friends than most of us do in a lifetime.

And today, Richard still lives in the house that he built all those years ago. He rakes his own lawn. And every Sunday he hops in his 1971 Ford truck and drives one of the nice ladies in his neighborhood to church. (Laughter and applause.) This is the life of one American veteran — living proud and strong in the land he helped keep free.

And earlier this year, the great folks at Honor Flight Austin brought Richard to Washington, D.C. for the first time. And he and his fellow veterans paid their respects at the World War II Memorial. And then they visited the memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr. And as Richard sat in a wheelchair beneath that great marble statue, he wept. And the crowd that gathered around him wept, too, to see one of the oldest living veterans of World War II bear witness to a day — to the progress of a nation — he thought might never come.

Richard Overton, this American veteran, is 107 years old. (Applause.) And we are honored that he’s here with us today. So let’s ask Richard to stand again — because he can stand. (Applause.)

And this is how we’ll be judged. Not just by how well we care for our troops in battle, but how we treat them when they come home — and by the America we build together; by what we do with the security and peace that they have helped grant us; by the progress that allows citizens from Richard Overton to Jacare Hogan to play their part in the American story.

Today, our message to all those who have ever worn the uniform of this nation is this: We will stand by your side, whether you’re seven days out or, like Richard, seventy years out. Because here in America, we take care of our own. We honor the sacrifice that has been made in our name, for this nation that we love. And we commit ourselves to standing by these veterans and their families, for as long as we’re blessed to walk this Earth.”

Complete text: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/11/08/remarks-president-veterans-day

“Let us never forget”: President Obama Commemorates Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery, 5/25/13

“Last Memorial Day, I stood here and spoke about how, for the first time in nine years, Americans were no longer fighting and dying in Iraq. Today, a transition is underway in Afghanistan, and our troops are coming home. Fewer Americans are making the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, and that’s progress for which we are profoundly grateful. And this time next year, we will mark the final Memorial Day of our war in Afghanistan….

….Perhaps it’s a tribute to our remarkable all-volunteer force, made up of men and women who step forward to serve and do so with extraordinary skill and valor. Perhaps it’s a testament to our advanced technologies, which allow smaller numbers of troops to wield greater and greater power. But regardless of the reason, this truth cannot be ignored that today most Americans are not directly touched by war.

As a consequence, not all Americans may always see or fully grasp the depth of sacrifice, the profound costs that are made in our name — right now, as we speak, every day. Our troops and our military families understand this, and they mention to me their concern about whether the country fully appreciates what’s happening. I think about a letter I received from a Naval officer, a reservist who had just returned from a deployment to Afghanistan. And he wrote me, “I’m concerned that our work in Afghanistan is fading from memory.” And he went on to ask that we do more to keep this conflict “alive and focused in the hearts and minds of our own people.”

And he’s right. As we gather here today, at this very moment, more than 60,000 of our fellow Americans still serve far from home in Afghanistan. They’re still going out on patrol, still living in spartan forward operating bases, still risking their lives to carry out their mission. And when they give their lives, they are still being laid to rest in cemeteries in the quiet corners across our country, including here in Arlington….

So today, we remember their service. Today, just steps from where these brave Americans lie in eternal peace, we declare, as a proud and grateful nation, that their sacrifice will never be forgotten. And just as we honor them, we hold their families close. Because for the parents who lose a child; for the husbands and wives who lose a partner; for the children who lose a parent, every loss is devastating. And for those of us who bear the solemn responsibility of sending these men and women into harm’s way, we know the consequences all too well. I feel it every time I meet a wounded warrior, every time I visit Walter Reed, and every time I grieve with a Gold Star family.

And that’s why, on this day, we remember our sacred obligation to those who laid down their lives so we could live ours: to finish the job these men and women started by keeping our promise to those who wear America’s uniform — to give our troops the resources they need; to keep faith with our veterans and their families, now and always; to never stop searching for those who have gone missing or who are held as prisoners of war….

Last fall, I received a letter from Candie Averette, of Charlotte, North Carolina. Both of her sons are Marines. Her oldest served two tours in Iraq. Her youngest was in Afghanistan at the time. He was, in her words, “100 percent devoted to his deployment and wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

Reading Candie’s letter, it was clear she was extraordinarily proud of the life her boys had chosen. But she also had a request on behalf of all the mothers just like her. She said, “Please don’t forget about my child and every other Marine and soldier over there who proudly choose to defend their country.”

A mother’s plea — please don’t forget. On this Memorial Day, and every day, let us be true and meet that promise. Let it be our task, every single one of us, to honor the strength and the resolve and the love these brave Americans felt for each other and for our country. Let us never forget to always remember and to be worthy of the sacrifice they make in our name.”

Full text: http://1.usa.gov/13ZEPNs

Weekly Address: Giving Thanks to Our Fallen Heroes this Memorial Day

“At a time when only about one percent of the American people bear the burden of our defense, the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform isn’t always readily apparent. That’s partly because our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and coast guardsmen are so skilled at what they do. It’s also because those who serve tend to do so quietly. They don’t seek the limelight. They don’t serve for our admiration, or even our gratitude. They risk their lives, and many give their lives, for something larger than themselves or any of us: the ideals of liberty and justice that make America a beacon of hope for the world.

That’s been true throughout our history – from our earliest days, when a tiny band of revolutionaries stood up to an Empire, to our 9/11 Generation, which continues to serve and sacrifice today.

Every time a threat has risen, Americans have risen to meet it. And because of that courage – that willingness to fight, and even die – America endures.

That is the purpose of Memorial Day. To remember with gratitude the countless men and women who gave their lives so we could know peace and live in freedom.

And we must do more than remember.

We must care for the loved ones that our fallen service members have left behind.

We must make sure all our veterans have the care and benefits they’ve earned, and the jobs and opportunity they deserve.

We must be there for the military families whose loved ones are in harm’s way – for they serve as well.

And above all, we must make sure that the men and women of our armed forces have the support they need to achieve their missions safely at home and abroad….

And every day, let us work together to preserve what their sacrifices achieved – to make our country even stronger, even more fair, even more free. That is our mission. It is our obligation. And it is our privilege, as the heirs of those who came before us, and as citizens of the United States of America.”

Full text: http://1.usa.gov/12UaBha