First lady shows her compassion at Camp Pendleton Marine Base
On a sunny and warm afternoon in San Diego, first lady Michelle Obama and her daughters toured the largest military installation in the county, Camp Pendleton, paying special attention to the families of those enlisted in the nine-year war in the Middle East.
The visit comes on the heels of a particularly rough week on the base – five members of the Pendleton marines lost their lives during the uptick in the summer surge in Afghanistan.
“In the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, no Marine base and few bases anywhere has sacrificed more for America, more lives, more wounded warriors, than your families and your colleagues,” Mrs. Obama said. “And today, we honor all of our fallen heroes, including the Camp Pendleton Marines who gave their lives just this past week; Sergeant Brandon Bury, Lance Corporal Derek Hernandez, Corporal Donald Marler, Sergeant John Rankel, and Lance Corporal Michael Plank.
“Our prayers and support are with these fallen Marines and their families, and with all the Gold Star families who are here with us today. As one Pendleton wife put it so eloquently, she said, `We’re the voices and spirits of the boys and girls who didn’t come home.’ And as a nation, we join with you in honoring their memory as you and your families find the strength to carry on and to live the lives that would make your loved ones so proud,” the first lady said. She expressed her deep condolences to the families who have paid the ultimate price.
Military brass has indicated that the effort to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban will result not only in a tough fight on the battlefield, but more casualties. The latter doesn’t sit well with family members on the base, but unfortunately it’s expected from those committed to winning the “War on Terror.”
“Some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met are the men and women in uniform,” Mrs. Obama said in front of hundreds of military personal and family members. “You all take my breathe away every time I’m on a base.”
Michelle Obama met privately with members of the military in close-door sessions to get the pulse of what a nation at war can do better to help those left behind dealing with the day-to-day task of shuffling kids to school, shopping and paying the bills.
She made sure those in attendance knew her priority was to broaden the country’s understanding of military personnel. “I want to help the country better understand the incredible service of you and your families. And to make sure your voices are heard back in Washington and make sure your needs are met.”
Recognizing the high suicide rate in the military associated with the “War on Terror,” Mrs. Obama will urge members in Congress to pay special attention to the mental health aspect of a long war and multiple deployments.
She also issued a national challenge to those in the audience encouraging every sector of American society to “to mobilize and take action and engage our military families.”
The throngs of young faces in military fatigues were excited to catch a glimpse of the first lady. These young recruits showed no sign of fear at the thought of deployment to the Middle East. In fact, it was the opposite, they were anxious to get into the fight and put their months of training to use and bravely serve America.
“It’s like training for the football team, you spend all summer working hard and getting it right and once the season begins you want to suit up and help your team win,” said one Marine when describing the enthusiasm of young soldiers eagerness to join the fight in the Middle East.
However, the war wasn’t the only thing on the minds of young Marines. P.F. Villavazo barely has high school in his rearview mirror and he says he is worried about where the country is headed and if there will be any jobs. “Being here (at Michelle Obama speech) is cool and exciting, but I’m concerned about the oil spill as well.”
Other speakers included area Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) who finds herself in a tough reelection bid. If Boxer’s speech at first lady’s tour on Camp Pendleton is any indication of her shot of keeping her seat, the Senator is in a heap of trouble.
While the first lady spoke with thoughtful words and compassion in her voice, Boxer stumbled while reading her speech about how she has been there for the troops. “I’ve never heard of her and she really looked out of place,” said Private Harding. “At least Michelle Obama seemed to care about us.”
In a moment of levity, Obama joked about her husband’s pick for the NBA finals, the Lakers, and expressed his love for the game of basketball.
As the event concluded the first lady stayed behind for 20 minutes signing autographs, posing for pictures and shaking many hands.