CLOSE

Michelle Obama spoke Friday night at West Point’s graduation banquet, her first trip the military academy. The first lady spoke at length about the importance of family.

From the prepared remarks distributed by the White House:

… [N]o matter where your career takes you, your families will be there right alongside you.

Because our force is a force of families.  That’s become more clear even in just a generation. During Vietnam, most of our troops were young single men. And most of those who were married had spouses who stayed at home. But today, more than half of our servicemembers are married, forty percent have two or more kids, and most military spouses are employed outside the home.

That’s what today’s military families look like. They’re military spouses who pursue a career, raise their kids alone, and still find time for night school. They’re children who move from town to town, constantly adjusting to new schools and making new friends. They’re Blue Star moms who wake up every morning and pray and pray that their child comes home safely. They’re Gold Star families who honor the memory of their loved ones while channeling their strength into serving others.

And graduates, here’s why your role is so important. Soon, you’ll be serving not just for yourselves, and not just for your own families, but for these families, too. You’ll be helping your troops deal with the joy of a newborn and the disappointment of not being in the delivery room. You’ll be helping a Soldier cope with a family emergency halfway around the world. And you’ll see again and again that those family relationships are just as important to a soldier’s success as anything that you can provide them in the field.

And just as our troops need your leadership and support, their families do as well, because they sacrifice and serve this nation right alongside anyone who wears our uniform.

But America doesn’t always see that. They can thank our troops in airports or at the grocery store because they’re wearing fatigues. But military families don’t wear any kind of uniform. They just blend in.

And because only one percent of our country serves in the Armed Forces, a lot of Americans simply don’t know many – or any – military families. They aren’t familiar with the resilience it takes to get through a long deployment. They don’t know the courage it takes simply to turn on the evening news. They don’t fully realize the strength you need to move your family for the fourth or fifth or sixth time in a decade.

But even though people may not always know exactly what you’re going through or exactly how to help, I can assure you that they do want to help.

Admiral Mullen, who will be speaking to you tomorrow, calls it the Sea of Goodwill. And believe me, I’ve seen it with my own eyes all across the country.

I’m working with Dr. Jill Biden to channel that Sea of Goodwill through an effort we are calling Joining Forces. This is a nationwide campaign calling on all Americans to recognize, honor, and support our military families – not just with words, but with deeds.

Make sure to read: Michelle Obama Asks Women’s Group: Are You In? and First Lady Michelle Obama Receives Honorary Degree From Spelman College [VIDEO]