President Rolls Up Sleeves to Support Military Kids
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 25, 2009 - Volunteers were already hard at work stuffing backpacks full of goodies for military kids today in Fort Lesley J. McNair's gymnasium when President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrived to give them a hand.
"It's very gratifying to see all of you committed to helping to put together some backpacks, care packages for military families all across the country," the president said. "On Monday we launched 'United We Serve,' our summer service initiative.
"We want to ask every American to take some time out this summer to do something for others," he added. "If all of us are doing that this summer, then we're going to make this country stronger."
As part of that strengthening, 15,000 backpacks of healthy snacks, books and even a copy of the first dog's "baseball card" will make it into the hands of military children attending the National Military Family Association's Operation Purple camps.
Even the youngest among today's 250 volunteers, which included congressional family members and representatives of nonprofit groups, were certain they could achieve that goal of 15,000 bags, and understood why military children need their support.
Taylor Paulsen, 10, knows what it's like to have her dad, U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, of Minnesota, work away from home.
"My dad works here, so sometimes he's away, but he comes back every weekend," she said. "It's sad because I really miss him. It's fun to have him home. We go on bike rides and play games."
It's the same for military kids, she said. "[But] they don't get to see their dad as much because when he's gone he doesn't come back every weekend," she added.
The meaning of volunteerism was best expressed by the adults, however.
Patty Barron, a representative of the National Military Family Association, grew up in a military environment and her daughter is serving in Afghanistan.
"I think that it's just something that we all need to do. I think that military members, spouses, and children especially understand what service means," Barron said. "For many of us growing up within a military family environment, volunteering is just part of what we do. If we don't do it, it doesn't get done."
With some help from the first family, including Obama daughters Malia and Sasha, the piles of backpacks and mountains of goodies had all but disappeared by the end of the morning. It was an effort Feeding America spokesman Phil Zepeda described as fantastic.