By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2011 – First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, pitched in today alongside dozens of volunteers here to complete renovations on a wounded warrior’s home.
The event marked the 1,000th home that Sears Holdings Corp. and the Rebuilding Together nonprofit organization have refitted for wounded warriors through their “Heroes at Home” project, which aims to improve military families’ lives by making needed repairs, improvements or modifications to their homes.
“Today is not the finish line, even though it’s the 1,000th home,” the first lady told the volunteers who gathered to put the finishing touches on the home. “Instead, it’s a mile marker. Jill and I are not going to stop until every American — every single American in this country — is joining forces with our military families.”
The home belongs to former Army Sgt. Johnny Agbi, who served as a combat medic from 1997 to 2008, including a deployment to Afghanistan. He suffered multiple service-related injuries during his service, and now is in a wheelchair. His home renovations include modifications for wheelchair accessibility, ceiling and lighting repair, new appliance installation and painting.
Biden called Agbi “a true hero.”
“You and all of your fellow veterans and service members from across the country show us every day what words like ‘strength’ and ‘courage’ mean,” she said. “We’re also grateful to your family members for their service to our country.”
The first lady called the renovation milestone an “impressive accomplishment.” And equally impressive, she added, is a new commitment by Sears Holdings to increase the number of military family members in its workforce by 10 percent.
“That’s incredible,” she said. “It means that more than 30,000 troops, veterans and military spouses will be working at Sears.” Service members, veterans and their families are “some of the most highly skilled, dedicated individuals this country has to offer,” she added.
Obama urged the audience to consider how these numbers will translate for military families.
“Just think about the lives that are changed,” she said. “Think about the renewed sense of security that each family feels because mom or dad just got hired; how the wounded warrior whose life is transformed by a refurbished home.”
Take that hope and change and multiply it by 1,000, she added, and “that’s what’s happening here today.”
Sears’ commitment is a perfect example of what the “Joining Forces” military family support campaign is all about, Obama said. The first lady and Biden kicked off the initiative earlier this year to encourage Americans to honor and support service members and their families.
“Jill and I started this initiative to help marshal all of this country’s goodwill into something concrete –something that folks like Johnny can feel in their daily lives,” she said.
Contributions can range from a neighbor shopping for a military family during a deployment to a company taking steps to hire spouses and veterans. “We’re not asking anyone to do anything extraordinary,” Obama said. “We’re not asking people to start a brand new organization or to raise or spend millions of dollars. We’re just asking people to ask one simple question, and that is: ‘What can I do?’
“And then we need you to get out there and actually do it,” she added, so the nation can show its support “in a way that is worthy of the strength, courage and sacrifice of our troops and their families.”
Today’s event marks incredible progress, Obama said, but much work still remains to be done. “Our hope, at the very least,” she said, “is that [military] families know how much we appreciate their service.”