By Capt. Alvin Phillips, 138th Public Affairs Detachment, New York Army National GuardApril 12, 2012
NEW YORK -- First lady Michelle Obama joined Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert on his show April 11 with members of the New York National Guard and families of deployed Soldiers to promote her efforts to support military families across the nation.
Colbert, no stranger to military audiences, noted that our "troops are a national treasure."
"I guess there really is a first time for everything, and being on the Colbert Report and seeing the first lady is something not ordinary and very exciting," said New York Army National Guard Spc. Marcus Brown, from Company A, 1st Battalion, 69 Infantry Regiment.
The visit was in part to Mrs. Obama's two-day tour celebrating the first anniversary of Joining Forces. Joining Forces is her initiative with Dr. Jill Biden to recognize, honor and support military families. The show added their support with the invitation for New York National Guard Soldiers and family members of troops currently deployed to Afghanistan.
"This show tonight really gives me a peace of mind knowing that the first lady and the White House is supporting us and our families," said Pvt. Erik Grijalva, also from Company A, 1-69 Infantry.
Since their inaugural launch on April 12, 2011, significant programs have been made to encourage Americans to support military families.
In one year, the White House reports that communities, businesses, schools, faith groups, non-profit organizations and individual Americans have made substantial commitments to show military families the support that they deserve.
The first lady went on to say that "unemployment is a key issue and we are seeing it decrease, but until we get to zero, we still have a lot of work to do."
Mrs. Obama also highlighted the tremendous value that servicemen and women and military families bring to the workplace. "Because this isn't just about benefiting these men and women, I mean these people are bringing in skills that actually improve the bottom line of companies," she said. "These are some of the most highly trained, highly skilled, disciplined people that we have in our society, the best this country has to offer."
Through collaborative efforts with Joining Forces, these groups have helped thousands of veterans and military families find jobs, improved educational opportunities for military children, supported our nation's wounded warriors and their caregivers, and honored our nation's fallen.
"It's hard to be a whiner around a veteran," Mrs. Obama said.
The Joining Forces two-day tour highlights examples of organizations and companies that have made significant commitments to support military families.
This proved to be an accomplishment that Mr. Colbert could tout as he reminded the rest of the audience that he too was a veteran of the war in Iraq, referencing his weeklong tour of duty in which President Obama ordered General Odierno to shave his head. He also expressed that since he was a veteran of the war, he should hire himself to host the Colbert Report.
Aside from political satire, Stephen Colbert has shown great support for the military over the years, including bringing his show to Iraq and performing at numerous USO events and even getting a military-style hair cut to show his solidarity with those in uniform, even if by presidential order.
Ramona Rivera, wife of 727th Military Police Law and Order Detachment's Luis Rivera who is currently serving in Afghanistan, said she is "very excited and pleased to see the first lady so committed to helping Soldiers and their Families before deployment, during deployments and after deployments."
Maj. Jane Altacho of New York National Guard's 369th Sustainment Brigade echoed a similar chord. "For our Guardsmen in Afghanistan right now to know that the first lady and Stephen Colbert are working to generate support for military families will certainly have an impact on their work efforts and diligence, because family is everything and knowing that no matter what, that your family has support makes a huge difference in a Soldier's mentality," Altacho said.
Taking a break from partisan campaign rancor, the first lady discussed how she certainly gets the better end of the deal by being able to selectively choose her platforms to support such as "military families and healthy eating."
"Such platforms are valuable to not only military members and their family members but to the country as a whole," Nelson Rivera, the Director American Legion Dutchess County and part of the studio audience, said.
"It really is neat to see how the White House and the Colbert Report invited New York National Guardsmen, family members of those in Afghanistan and veterans, because he is not used to being engaged with topics of support," said Richard Devine, husband of 727th Military Police Law and Order Detachment Sgt. Stephanie Devine and huge fan of the show. "It feels great not to be centrally located near a military base but (still) feel so connected, understood and know there are supporters out in the communities," he added.
The invitation to join the Comedy Central production left a positive impression for all of the Soldiers and family members, noted New York Army National Guard Pvt. Luis Montanez, Company A, 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment. "This is a special feeling, being here on the Colbert Report with the first lady, something we can definitely tell our children about," he said.