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Jill Biden: National Guard a 'Beacon of Hope'

11-30-22 WR Jill Biden FINAL
11-30-22 WR Jill Biden FINAL
Washington Report

The best way to support service members and their families dominated the discussion when First Lady Jill Biden hosted National Guardsmen, their spouses and children at the White House on Monday.

“For many Americans, our National Guard and their families are the only service members that civilians might know,” Biden said during a roundtable discussion with Guard families and adjutants general in Washington, D.C.

Guardsmen live in almost every ZIP code nationwide.

National Guard leaders and Guard families from more than 30 states and U.S. territories attended the event, which lasted more than three hours.

The roundtable included breakout sessions with White House staff about how to best support the families of servicemembers in America's armed forces.

“We wanted them to be a part of this special day because they represent the heart of our communities — men and women who choose to serve even as they pursue other careers, who answer the call of duty in our hometowns as quickly as disasters strike and needs arise,” Biden said.

"Though our nation relies on their courage, the service of our Guardsmen and women and of their families often goes unseen — especially children of National Guard members," she continued.

Meeting with some of these children, Biden also discussed the National Guard’s primary mission as the combat reserve for the Army and Air Force.

“Our National Guard members and families have served alongside our active-duty forces in every major conflict,” she noted.

"And, here at home, you are a beacon of hope when hurricanes flood our cities, when fire destroys homes or when a pandemic grips the nation," Biden noted.

President Joe Biden and the first lady have a strong connection to the Guard.

Their son, Army Maj. Beau Biden, was a member of the Delaware Army National Guard who served a tour in Iraq before his 2015 death from brain cancer.

“When Beau was deployed, I saw how much his children … missed their daddy,” Biden told the children.

"No matter how much we tried, we couldn’t fill his chair at birthdays and holidays," she admitted. "Some of you may know that experience.”

Biden leads the Joining Forces initiative with its mission to support “those who also serve: military and veteran families, caregivers and survivors.”

“We deeply appreciate the Joining Forces program and its recognition of the families of those who serve,” said Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau.

"Today’s meetings are so timely: many service members are deployed and will miss the holidays with their families," he added.

"We are especially grateful for everyone’s support of our National Guard families, and that Dr. Biden invested time with the children of soldiers and airmen was so meaningful for all of us.”

The adjutants general in attendance shared successful initiatives in their states and territories that could be applied nationally.

Examples included programs to support spouse employment, educate young adults about service or help unemployed or underemployed troops find meaningful vocations.

Guard leaders also highlighted areas for continued work, like making professional qualifications transferable between states.

Such a change would mean spouses could continue careers more easily when a husband or wife’s military service requires a geographic move.

The speakers also discussed ensuring all Guardsmen have health insurance regardless of duty status.

A third topic was about how to help Americans better understand the Guard’s contributions to the U.S.

Attendees additionally joined Biden's unveiling of the 2022 White House “We the People” holiday theme and decorations.

Landon Schmitt of Lake Mills, Wisconsin, the 14-year-old son of a Wisconsin National Guardsman, told Biden he is proud of his father’s service.

“I don’t really see it as being different from anybody else,” Schmitt said of his upbringing as a servicemember’s child. "I just want to help my dad."

"If he’s going to put himself out there to serve the country, then I can help at home while he’s gone," he concluded.

The Guard’s senior enlisted leader said strength and dedication are what set military families apart.

“The resilience of our National Guard families and especially the children of Guardsmen in our formations is a force multiplier,” said Chief Master Sgt. Tony Whitehead, Hokanson’s senior enlisted advisor.

"Taking care of our people and their families will always be our highest priority," he finished.

— By Master Sgt. Jim Greenhill and Sgt. 1st Class Zach Sheely, National Guard Bureau