Dr. Jill Biden, the first lady of the United States, visits Fort Carson spouses in honor of Military Spouse Appreciation Day at the Army Community Service building May 6, 2021, at Fort Carson, near Colorado Springs. Biden, in a purple jacket, met with each spouse before parting the mountain post. (Photo by Aleah M. Castrejon/Courtesy of USAG Fort Carson)
The Fort Carson event where First Lady Jill Biden spoke Thursday wasn’t about COVID-19, but the community college educator still managed to get in a gentle nudge of encouragement for Army families to get the coronavirus vaccine.
Biden said she wished she could share lunch and conversation with military spouses, but the pandemic would cut her time short.
“As more and more Americans get vaccinated, those brighter days are not far away,” Biden said. “So make sure that you all get vaccinated so the next time we’re together we can sit down and share that meal.”
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Fort Carson, Colorado’s only Army installation, began offering walk-in vaccinations to all military beneficiaries on May 3. Nationwide, just over 170,000 Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve members were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of May 6, according to data from the Department of Defense.
Biden gave vaccines just a quick mention near the end of her remarks to around three dozen military spouses one day ahead of Military Spouse Appreciation Day, celebrated the Friday before Mother’s Day. This year, the special date honoring spouses of military members falls on May 7.
“You change jobs and you start businesses, you handle the logistics of every move and make sure your kids have what they need to keep learning,” Biden said to those gathered at the USO Colorado event, which was streamed live by FOX21 News.
Last month, the White House announced it was relaunching a Barack Obama-era program started by former First Lady Michelle Obama and then-Second Lady Biden called Joining Forces. The program figured prominently in Biden’s short speech at Fort Carson.
“Whether it’s access to better employment opportunities or affordable, quality child care — which I’ve heard from you over and over again — or better mental health services and wellness resources, we need to do more,” Biden said, addressing the military spouses in attendance. “Your service to this country has earned nothing less, and giving you the support you need to thrive matters to me and to the president.”
The program aims to support families of service members and veterans, caregivers, and survivors. It’s focused on helping military spouses find employment, supporting military children in their K-12 education, and working with community providers on helping military families maintain their mental and physical health.
Biden called adequate resources for military families a “matter of national security.”
“When someone you love is hurting, you hurt with them,” Biden said. “Our service members can’t focus on their missions if their family members don’t have what they need to thrive at home.”
The First Lady visited Colorado after a trip to Las Vegas, where on Thursday morning she joined the Service Employees International Union to honor nurses at University Medical Center for National Nurses Day.
On the Army installation, Biden spoke at Fort Carson’s Family Advocacy Center after brief remarks from Linda Mays, executive director of USO Colorado, a nonprofit that serves military families, and Krista Cole, a homeschooling mother who helps run a Facebook group for Fort Carson spouses and is herself the spouse of an Army National Guard member.
Biden advocated for military families during the Obama administration and has continued that work with her husband as president. Their son, Major Beau Biden, served in the Delaware Army National Guard and was deployed to Iraq before his 2015 death from brain cancer.
At the Colorado Springs Airport, members of Colorado’s congressional delegation, including Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper and Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs, greeted Biden after her plane touched down at 1:30 p.m., according to a White House pool report.
Lt. Gov. Diane Primavera, a Democrat, and Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, a Republican, also welcomed Biden at the airport.
State and local leaders have advocated policies to make Colorado, which has five Air Force bases in addition to the Army post, a more military-friendly state.
A law passed in Colorado last year aims to make it easier for people to find jobs when they relocate to the state with a spouse on military assignment. The legislation, House Bill 20-1326, allows military spouses to get three-year temporary credentials for any job regulated by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, as long as they hold similar credentials from another U.S. state or territory and meet certain requirements.
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