The first part of our task is to recognize the state of our military families today.
And I want every American to understand what you all see every day. We know that our military families are some of the most patriotic, some of the most dedicated, the most service-oriented Americans you will ever meet. They are spouses who somehow manage to do it all -- like the woman from Michigan who wrote to me saying -- she said, “I wear many hats -- career woman, mother of three daughters, and a soldier’s wife.” She described the everyday challenges of holding the family together during her husband’s deployment. But she added, “I am proud of my husband and so very proud to be a soldier’s wife.”
They are families that, even as they serve the nation, they still find time to serve their own communities -- like the Gordons, who I met during the Toys for Tots drive at the Marine base at Quantico. They spent so much time collecting toys for other children that they had to bring their family’s Christmas tree into the collection center so they could actually enjoy it. (Laughter.)
But we also know that after more than eight years of war, with just 1 percent of our population -- our troops --doing 100 percent of the fighting, that these strong families are being tested like never before.
They are resilient, so they don’t always show it. And they are proud, so they don’t always talk about it. So a lot of Americans don’t always see it. But these are the hard realities that you know.
These families have served through multiple deployments, year after year -- like the inspiring mother and daughter that I just got to meet, you heard from this morning: Christian and Emryse Geye, whose husband and father, Martin, is now in Iraq on his fourth tour of duty, his fourth deployment.
For these deployed parents, they miss out on the birthdays and the anniversaries and special moments that every family treasures -- like the father who I recently met during my visit to Walter Reed. It was there, laying in his bed, recovering from his wounds, that he finally held his newborn son for the first time.
And we can never forget our incredible military kids -- little children who’ve spent most of their lives with a parent deployed, and older siblings who shoulder more responsibility than even most adults can imagine.
They’re kids like Brittany Wallace, Operation Homefront’s 2009 Military Child of the Year, who I got to meet last year. When her father was wounded, her mother had to leave home to help him recover. Brittany went from being a teenager to a mom for her siblings. She explained, in her own words, she said, “My priorities changed. My family came first.”
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