Obama, first lady headlining salute to troops

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are headlining a White House music event Thursday honoring U.S. troops.

Hours before the evening event in a huge tent on a rain-soaked South Lawn, the first lady put a spotlight on children from military families by inviting some who attend high schools in Maryland and Virginia to a workshop with country singer Willie Nelson and hip-hop artist Common.

Mrs. Obama said military kids are some of the most resilient young people she has ever met. She said their families move an average of six to nine times by the time they receive a high school diploma and that, each time, the students have to adjust to new homes, schools, neighborhoods and friends.

But there is a lesson in the continued inconvenience, Mrs. Obama said, even though it may not always be readily apparent.

"As tough as it is, this stuff makes you stronger and more resilient, and it's going to make you successful," she said as she welcomed the students to the ornate East Room for a tutorial on the history of music and the military. Nelson played guitar and sang. "So it's a badge of honor," she said.

Nelson and Common were to perform during Thursday's program along with recording artists Mary J. Blige, John Fogerty and Romeo Santos. The rock band Daughtry was scheduled to perform via satellite from a USO concert at Yokota Air Base in Japan.

The program is the latest installment of the PBS series "In Performance at the White House" and is to be broadcast Friday on PBS stations nationwide.

Obama has said caring for U.S. troops and veterans is a top priority of his administration.

He met Wednesday with the top two officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Secretary Robert McDonald and his deputy, Sloan Gibson, urging both to continue working to improve services, health care and accountability for veterans, the White House said.

McDonald is just a few months into the job after replacing a secretary who resigned amid a nationwide outcry over lengthy wait times for veterans in need of medical care at VA hospitals and falsified records covering up the delays.

Obama regularly touts steps his administration is taking to cut the staggering backlog of disability claims filed by veterans, reduce homelessness among veterans and help veterans, their spouses and their children attend college under the post-9/11 GI bill.

The Obamas also have pushed the federal government and private employers to make hiring veterans and their spouses a priority.

"America has to do right by all who serve under our proud flag," Obama said in August before he signed a $16.3 billion veterans' funding bill.

Mrs. Obama and Jill Biden, Vice President Joe Biden's wife, are co-chairwomen of a nationwide campaign called "Joining Forces" to encourage the public to support service members present and past and their families through acts as simple as mowing their lawn or bringing them a meal.


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