Joe Podelco / Lantern Photo Editor
First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden came to Columbus on Thursday to promote several initiatives to increase job opportunities for military associates and their families.
“For the past two years, we’ve traveled across America, meeting with men and women in uniforms and their families,”
Obama said to a crowd of about 250. “We know about the sacrifices you have made for your country and we know about the sacrifices you make every day.”
Obama said the Joining Forces initiative will ensure military families have the support they have earned.
“This is a nationwide effort to bring Americans together to recognize, to honor and to serve our nation’s military families,” Obama said.
Biden, a military mother herself, spoke about the importance of military families to both the workplace and society.
“Our military families are strong, incredible, resilient and some of the most valuable members of the American workplace,” Biden said.
Along with Obama and Biden, representatives from Sears met in the company’s warehouse to talk about their Joining Forces initiative. This program will hire military spouses, military veterans and any military reserve personnel.
Lou D’Ambrosio, chief executive officer of Sears Holdings, said the company works to give military families job opportunities.
“In my type of role, there are things that you have to do, things that you want to do and things that you are thrilled to do,” D’Ambrosio said. “This event, Joining Forces, is in the category of thrilled to do. Why? Because we are here to support and provide support to our heroes.”
The Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, said Sears and other companies recognize that military spouses and military veterans bring much to the workplace.
“Men and women on the front lines of war already have so much to worry about,” Solis said. “These brave men and women are bound by the common belief: leave no one behind, today we make a similar pledge to soldiers and their families, we will not leave you behind.”
D’Ambrosio also talked about a program called Heroes at Home. He said it is designed to rebuild the homes of injured veterans by adding ramps and making them wheelchair friendly.
D’Ambrosio said he was excited to announce the new initiative to ensure that when military families are relocated, their spouses are guaranteed to keep their job within the Sears network.
“We are very mindful that often times men and women of our service are relocated, during these times there is a lot of stress,” D’Ambrosio said.
D’Ambrosio said all of these programs are a result of the direct work of the First Lady.
Brian McGrady, a former Marine who served 21 years in the military, was at the event in support of Sears’ program.
McGrady thinks he and his wife Teneacha were the most recent hires under this program. He said they were just hired and he just got out of the military on April 1st.
“From the very first interview, this place felt like home,” McGrady said. “I feel like I’m the prototype, I’m that guy they were talking about today.
“(During relocation) the spouse has to gain employment, and too often the opportunity is not there,” D’Ambrosio said. “On Tuesday we were delighted to announce a Sears PCS (Perminant Change of Duty Station) promise and that said, ‘for members of the military veterans, when they are relocated, we promise that we will do everything we can to ensure that that spouse, during relocation, is provided a job at a Sears, K-mart or Lands End.'”
Obama and Biden have been traveling all around the U.S. this week, highlighting several initiatives similar to those of Sears.
“This is something that is going to be good for our entire economy,” Obama said. “I want to end today by thanking all of you at Sears for all that you have done.”