News: First Lady Visits Vermont National Guard
Story by Lt. Col. Lloyd Goodrow
By 1st Lt. Dyana K. Allen
158th Fighter Wing
SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. - First Lady Michelle Obama visited hundreds of members of the Vermont National Guard and their families June 30 at the VTNG’s Army Aviation Support Facility in South Burlington to thank military members and their families for their continued hard work.
“I come here today on behalf of a grateful nation to say two simple words that you all should hear every single day: Thank you. And I come here to celebrate the people who serve right alongside you without ever wearing a uniform: your amazing families, our heroes right here at home,” said Obama.
Obama’s visit to the Vermont National Guard was due in large part to the encouragement of Marcelle Leahy, Honorary Chair of the Vermont National Guard Family Readiness Program and wife of Senator Patrick Leahy, the Senate Co-Chair of the National Guard Caucus.
Obama spoke about the “Joining Forces” campaign which recognizes, honors and serves military families. The intention is to help take care of troops and their families throughout the duration of deployment. She spoke about the community of Hyde Park, who came together and did nation-wide fundraisers to build Pfc. Andrew Parker, an active duty soldier who was wounded in Afghanistan, a wheelchair-accessible apartment within his family’s home.
Obama also stressed that that the goal of her initiative is do whatever can be to done, join forces and ensure that every school supports and celebrates military children and supports military members.
“For her to join us in our great, little state of Vermont is a great honor,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Dubie, the adjutant general, VTNG.
His words resounded with the Gold Star Family members. Regina Meckle, whose son Pfc. Kyle Gilbert was killed in action in Iraq in 2003, said that she is proud that the First Lady came to Vermont and she is proud to be an American. Her husband, Sgt. Herbert Meckle said that he is very honored that Obama is showing support to the military.
The Merchant family, also a Gold Star Family, was curious to hear what Obama had to say. Janet Merchant, whose son, Spc. Christopher Merchant was killed in Iraq in 2006, was very grateful that Obama was showing support for our troops.
Support did not only come from the White House and its staff. The event planning started over two weeks ago with intricate coordination required from the Secret Service, local police, local sheriff’s offices, DHS, TSA, all Air and Army NG Major Commands, Emergency Medical Services, the Red Cross, and the Vermont State Guard.
“There was a lot of hard work and extra hours put in by all parties involved in this effort, but it is a pleasure to welcome the First Lady,” said Lt. Col. Dwight DeCoster, director of Military Support.
Capt. Rob Evans, assistant Field Force Commander for the Vermont State Police, was also honored to welcome the First Lady to Vermont and is proud of our military and we all do together. “It is a wonderful opportunity to work with the National Guard in events like this. With all the missions that we do together with all agencies, we seem to work seamlessly,” said Evans.
Obama has been traveling throughout the nation visiting service members and their families to reassure military families of the deep appreciation of our nation and to demonstrate the importance of taking care of our military families during times of deployment.