By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 10, 2012 – First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden welcomed military wives, mothers, grandmothers and children to the White House today for a tea to mark Military Spouse Appreciation Day tomorrow and Mother’s Day on Sunday.
“Now is really the perfect time to thank all of you for your service to this country. Every single day, you all are an inspiration to Jill and to me,'” the first lady told more than a hundred people who sat down for afternoon tea in the White House East Room.
“For all of you — and I say this a lot — service isn’t just something that you do once in a while or during the holidays, it’s how you live your lives,” Obama said. “You all are the first ones to step up and say ‘How can I help?’ no matter how busy you are.”
About 45 children representing families from each of the services, many with military mothers, were invited into the White House State Room to make crafts and cards for their mothers. They were joined by the first and second ladies.
The children presented their crafts at the tea where Obama and Biden thanked them, their mothers and grandmothers. The first lady also thanked her own mother who sat with the military families.
“I would not be standing here if it were not for her,” Obama said. “She is my rock. She has taught me to believe in myself, and more importantly, to pick myself up whenever I stumble.“She is always a shoulder to cry on and talk to, and I do that a lot,” Obama said. “And she has always inspired me — something I think is amazing for my mom — to push myself to dream even bigger than anything she could ever dream for herself, and she has always done that. And it’s true today.”
The first lady told the women they are role models not just for their children, but also for the nation. To the grandmothers, she said their children’s desire to serve in uniform is a reflection of their love and values.
“Whenever we think we’re tired,” Obama said of herself and Biden, “we think of your stories and it gets us up. You all are an inspiration to our husbands, more importantly, and you all are an inspiration to the entire country. And today I think you deserve to celebrate.”
After the tea, Obama and Biden hosted congressional spouses at the vice president’s residence at the Naval Observatory. There, they helped pack 2,000 Mother’s Day gift boxes of charm bracelets, cosmetics, and other items, as well as handwritten notes from the service members.
The gift boxes were produced and distributed by the USO and Full Circle Home, a nonprofit group started by two military mothers to provide gifts on behalf of deployed service members.
Biden, whose son, Beau, deployed to Iraq for a year with the Army National Guard, said she understands the “incredible gift” the packages would bring to military mothers and wives.
“I know what it feels like for a mom to see that familiar handwriting from a loved one from thousands of miles away,” she said.
Biden told both groups that she and Obama started their ‘Joining Forces’ campaign for military families last year to add support to those who deserve it so much.