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The Power of Joining Forces
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First Lady Michelle Obama greets military family member panelists U.S. Air Force Capt. Kelly Smith, Arnita Moore and Bobby Jarman before the Joining Forces Entertainment Guild Symposium at the Writer's Guild of America Building in Los Angeles, Calif., June 13, 2011. Bruce Cohen looks on at left. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
The Power of Joining Forces
By Michelle Obama

Be a part of the initiative that’s supporting American military families at home and abroad.

This past summer, the Producers Guild was proud to be a part of JOINING FORCES, an inter-guild initiative in support of military families, supported by none other than our First Lady, Michelle Obama.  As a result of PGA involvement, military bases around the world enjoyed screenings of Cars 2, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and other major motion pictures. 

We are proud to continue the work of JOINING FORCES by publishing this brief piece from the First Lady as a website feature.


Bobby Jarman and his wife wanted to retire together.   After his 22-year Army career ended, however, his wife was redeployed to Iraq.  And Bobby became a full-time dad for his four daughters.

Arnita Brigham Moore can relate.  When her husband joined the Marines, she soon realized that she would be asked to serve our country, as well.  Deployments meant Arnita had to play the role of mother and father for their four children, serving as counselor, disciplinarian, and everything else.

But neither Arnita nor Bobby ever complained.  They kept moving forward, doing what they needed to do for their family and for our country.  And every single day, veterans and military families all across America demonstrate that same commitment, honor, and resilience. 

First Lady Michelle Obama listens as military family member panelists relate their stories during the Joining Forces Entertainment Guild Symposium at the Writer's Guild of America Building in Los Angeles, Calif., June 13, 2011.  (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
One of my greatest blessings as First Lady has been hearing so many of these inspiring stories. I’ve heard from military spouses who balance work, family, and school all while dealing with the emotions of a deployment.  I’ve spent time with military children who bounce from school to school while stepping up around the house when dad or mom is overseas.  And I’ve been inspired by veterans who keep serving their country long after they’ve taken off a military uniform, survivors of our fallen who stand tall as pillars of their communities, and wounded warriors who don’t let anything get in the way of their dreams.

But as much as these stories are a part of my life now, they weren’t always on my radar.  For many years, even though I followed the news of the day and kept up on most issues, I simply didn’t know much about the experiences of military families.  That’s probably the case for most Americans. 

But as I’ve learned more and more about the unique strength and courage of our military families, I’ve become driven to do whatever I can to make sure that these stories are heard. That’s why I launched the Joining Forces initiative with Dr. Jill Biden earlier this year to honor, appreciate, and support our nation’s veterans and military families.  We’re asking all Americans – businesses, nonprofits, government, and citizens of all kinds – to keep doing what they do best, and direct some of their efforts toward military families.

That’s why I’m writing to you today – because all of you are our storytellers. You capture our imaginations.  You open our eyes.  You touch our hearts.   And you help us understand who we are as individuals – and as Americans. 

So I’m asking you to make these brave, strong military families a part of what you do every day.  You might build an episode around a military family’s experience.  You might add a character that is going through a deployment or explore the challenges veterans face when they return home.  You don’t have to create a full-length screenplay or a pitch the networks on a brand-new series.  Simply work it in to what you’re already doing.  Be creative.  Be compelling.  Be funny. 

First Lady Michelle Obama shares a laugh with U.S. Air Force Capt. Kelly Smith during the Joining Forces Entertainment Guild Symposium at the Writer's Guild of America Building in Los Angeles, Calif., June 13, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
We’ve already seen how your industry can make an impact, and I’m thankful for all those who have led the way.  Extreme Makeover: Home Edition dedicated an episode to an amazing veteran in North Carolina.  Your guilds organized a symposium on military families and produced a powerful series of public service announcements seen by millions all across the country.  And I even ended up dancing on the set of iCarly after they built an episode around the emotions military children feel while a parent is deployed.

I’ll bet if you asked any of the actors, directors, or producers involved with any of these projects, they’d say they got as much out of the experience than any of the families they were hoping to highlight.  That’s been my experience every step of the way.  Every time I’ve spoken with a family member or worked on a project with them, I’ve come away refreshed, inspired, and ready to do more. I think you’ll have the same feeling, too. 

So I hope you’ll take advantage of the opportunities you have to make a difference for our nation’s veterans and military families. Share their stories.  Help America feel their emotions and understand their challenges. 

If we can do this, we’ll help unleash even more of the compassion and goodwill that exists throughout America for these families.  We’ll see even more creative, meaningful ways that Americans are showing their support.  We’ll see more people getting involved.  And when we all do that – when we all join forces – we can be sure that we’re serving them as well as they’ve served us.