Tuesday, April 12, 2011

First Lady Michelle Obama, A True Beacon of Hope for Military Families and Veterans

One of the rare benefits of doing things for others is that occasionally someone does something nice for you when you least expect it.  That’s exactly what happened to Playwright Eric Hicks and myself.  In the fall of 2009, Eric and I, both long time youth advocates, decided to join forces to host a Celebration of Freedom Day at the Pritchard Community Center on July 2nd, 2010 in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.  The event was aimed at bringing about awareness to issues like homelessness among our returning soldiers, multiple deployments, educational opportunities for veterans, youth programs and more.  

On the surface you would think that this was a great idea, and support would be plentiful.  But that was easier said than done.  I decided to contact the White House and the First Lady to ask for their support and participation via video.  But schedules and other obligations prevented them from being able to assist us in a timely manner.   Somewhat disappointed I understood the pressures of their schedule and moved on to face our next challenge. 
First Lady Michelle Obama is briefed by Lt. Gen.  Mark
Hertling on the consequences of childhood obesity, 
poor nutrition and lack of exercise on military readiness.
Photo By:  Samantha Appleton

This turned out to be the unexpected loss of our primary sponsor Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. They closed their doors and relocated to another State.  If that wasn’t enough the area military leaders decided not to come on board.  The final straw was when a few members of our own team gave up and abandoned the project. 

At this point it seemed easier to quit! This was our defining moment and things were looking pretty bleak. Our commitment was being tested.  Nonetheless,   Eric and I thought it over and felt the issues were too important to give up on.  So we decided to move forward.  

Then something special began to happen!  Business and civic leaders stepped forward and helped us make A Celebration of Freedom a reality.  With their help we were able to put on the play Tell Me What Courage Is, film the documentary In the Name of the Children, showcase a dance presentation by Sweet Silent Spirit, followed by musical performances by Hip Hop Artist Young Truth and Rapper 3D, all in honor of the sacrifices made by our military, and their families on a daily basis.

That’s why it was surprising to receive a letter from First Lady Michelle Obama, thanking us for staying the course.  In her letter dated August 4, 2010 she stated,

“ Military families are close to my heart and constantly in my thoughts.  The strength and courage you show each and every day is an inspiration to me and to countless others around our great Nation. 

America is blessed to have a strong military with dedicated servicemen and women who defend our Nation and keep us safe.  In standing alongside our servicemen and women, you, too, are dedicating your lives to the service of our Nation.  Every day, in cities and towns across America, military families work to strengthen communities and support each other.”

She further added, “We are so thankful for all that you do.  Still I believe that supporting military families is a cause that calls every American to serve.  It is my great hope that all Americans will honor our men and women in uniform by never taking the blessings of freedom for granted and by doing our part to support the families of our military.

The President is committed to doing just that.  From increasing military pay and recruiting additional permanent forces to investing in military family programs, please be assured that this Administration is committed to reducing the stress on service members and their families.

Yours is not an easy path, and you continue to inspire me.  You are truly watching over those who watch over us.  Thank you again for all you do.”

This heartfelt message from the First Lady recognized our efforts and reaffirmed that Eric and I made the right decision.  But the credit is not ours alone.  Without the help of the following government agencies, businesses, organizations and individuals A Celebration of Freedom Day would not have been possible.  So to these individuals we send out a special thank you:

First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a roundtable
discussion with military spouses.  Photo By:  Joyce N. 
Governor Steven L. Beshear, City of Radcliff Mayor Sheila C. Enyart, University of Kentucky Military Veterans of America (UKMVA), Youth Performing Arts School (JCPS), Whitney Young Job Corps, Lowe’s, Longshot Productions, U.S. Military All Stars – Heroes of the Diamond, St. Catherine College, K&G Fashion Superstore, Positive Images That Invoke Self-Esteem (P.I.T.I.S.E.) Institute, BeeNetwork, Pritchard Community Center, Brenda Cross, Verna’ Goatley, Charles L. Mitchell (IDMR), Bobby Alexander – Commander, Chapter 3 Disabled American Veterans, Gary Rice, Sr. – Vice Commander, Chapter 3 Disabled American Veterans, The Elizabethtown News Enterprise, WQXE Radio, Carson Helton, Devante Wells, Carlton Oldham, Kara Lowery, Whitney Smith, John Story II, Mechael Guess, Tyler Chandler, Djuan Barners, Karen Mack, Cornelia Moss-Oldham, Reggie Woods, Brandon Reed, Jerrold Edwards, Diava Carter, Joe Blincoe, Samantha Davis, Tyler Gayheart, Michelle Brown, Shawn Hensley, Mark Hagan, Paul Hicks, Dan Moll, Amy Scott, Lela Bond, J.T. Burton, Rod Ussery, Vicki, Terri, Ashley Doyle, Clint Vaught-YPAS, Larry Wooldridge - Principal  – DuPont Manual, YPAS Principal and Staff.

It truly was their belief and support that made this effort a success!  As for the First Lady, we are grateful for her encouragement and confidence as we continue striving to help America’s youth and families.

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