Category Archives: Change

First Lady Michelle Obama Launches New Lodging For Families Of Ailing Vets

Posted by: Audiegrl

AP~First Lady Michelle Obama has helped open three new residences for families of ailing U.S. soldiers and veterans in Maryland.

Mrs. Obama cut the red ribbon Thursday for the Fisher Houses at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. She was flanked by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Ken Fisher of the Fisher House Foundation.

Obama says the homes provide a comfortable place for families who have made a sacrifice for their country.

The residences will provide free lodging for the families of as many as 60 sick and injured service members.

The Rockville-based foundation has built dozens of Fisher Houses at military facilities since 1991.

The new residences are part of the planned move of Walter Reed Army Medical Center from Washington to Bethesda next year.

Remarks by the First Lady at Fisher House Tour and Ribbon Cutting

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First Lady Michelle Obama Attends “Let’s Move” Event In Harlem

Posted by: Audiegrl

First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a “Let’s Move” after-school event in Harlem with elementary school children at the New York Police Athletic League’s Harlem Center November 18, 2010 in New York City. The First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign highlights the importance of physical activity and healthy eating for children in an effort to combat childhood obesity.

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Medal of Honor for Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta

Posted by: Audiegrl
Written by Jesse Lee

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta and his wife Jennifer Mueller in the Oval Office, Nov. 16, 2010. Later, the President presented the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Giunta for his courageous actions during combat operations against an armed enemy in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, in October 2007. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

This afternoon in the East Room of the White House, the President presented the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry to Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, U.S. Army — the first living service member from the Iraq or Afghanistan wars to receive it.  “Now, I’m going to go off-script here for a second and just say I really like this guy,” said the President to laughter and applause.  “I think anybody — we all just get a sense of people and who they are, and when you meet Sal and you meet his family, you are just absolutely convinced that this is what America is all about.”


As the President always does, he recounted the story of the events that earned  this honor, and as always it needs no editorial embellishment:

During the first of his two tours of duty in Afghanistan, Staff Sergeant Giunta was forced early on to come to terms with the loss of comrades and friends.  His team leader at the time gave him a piece of advice:  “You just try — you just got to try to do everything you can when it’s your time to do it.”  You’ve just got to try to do everything you can when it’s your time to do it.

Salvatore Giunta’s time came on October 25, 2007.  He was a Specialist then, just 22 years old.

Sal and his platoon were several days into a mission in the Korengal Valley — the most dangerous valley in northeast Afghanistan.  The moon was full.  The light it cast was enough to travel by without using their night-vision goggles.  With heavy gear on their backs, and air support overhead, they made their way single file down a rocky ridge crest, along terrain so steep that sliding was sometimes easier than walking.

They hadn’t traveled a quarter mile before the silence was shattered.  It was an ambush, so close that the cracks of the guns and the whizz of the bullets were simultaneous.  Tracer fire hammered the ridge at hundreds of rounds per minute — “more,” Sal said later, “than the stars in the sky.”

The Apache gunships above saw it all, but couldn’t engage with the enemy so close to our soldiers.  The next platoon heard the shooting, but were too far away to join the fight in time.

And the two lead men were hit by enemy fire and knocked down instantly.  When the third was struck in the helmet and fell to the ground, Sal charged headlong into the wall of bullets to pull him to safety behind what little cover there was.  As he did, Sal was hit twice — one round slamming into his body armor, the other shattering a weapon slung across his back.

They were pinned down, and two wounded Americans still lay up ahead.  So Sal and his comrades regrouped and counterattacked.  They threw grenades, using the explosions as cover to run forward, shooting at the muzzle flashes still erupting from the trees.  Then they did it again.  And again.  Throwing grenades, charging ahead.  Finally, they reached one of their men.  He’d been shot twice in the leg, but he had kept returning fire until his gun jammed.

As another soldier tended to his wounds, Sal sprinted ahead, at every step meeting relentless enemy fire with his own.  He crested a hill alone, with no cover but the dust kicked up by the storm of bullets still biting into the ground.  There, he saw a chilling sight:  the silhouettes of two insurgents carrying the other wounded American away — who happened to be one of Sal’s best friends.  Sal never broke stride.  He leapt forward.  He took aim.  He killed one of the insurgents and wounded the other, who ran off.

Sal found his friend alive, but badly wounded.  Sal had saved him from the enemy — now he had to try to save his life.  Even as bullets impacted all around him, Sal grabbed his friend by the vest and dragged him to cover.  For nearly half an hour, Sal worked to stop the bleeding and help his friend breathe until the MEDEVAC arrived to lift the wounded from the ridge.  American gunships worked to clear the enemy from the hills.  And with the battle over, First Platoon picked up their gear and resumed their march through the valley.  They continued their mission.

It had been as intense and violent a firefight as any soldier will experience.  By the time it was finished, every member of First Platoon had shrapnel or a bullet hole in their gear.  Five were wounded.  And two gave their lives:  Sal’s friend, Sergeant Joshua C. Brennan, and the platoon medic, Specialist Hugo V. Mendoza.

Now, the parents of Joshua and Hugo are here today.  And I know that there are no words that, even three years later, can ease the ache in your hearts or repay the debt that America owes to you.  But on behalf of a grateful nation, let me express profound thanks to your sons’ service and their sacrifice.  And could the parents of Joshua and Hugo please stand briefly?  (Applause.)

Now, I already mentioned I like this guy, Sal.  And as I found out myself when I first spoke with him on the phone and when we met in the Oval Office today, he is a low-key guy, a humble guy, and he doesn’t seek the limelight.  And he’ll tell you that he didn’t do anything special; that he was just doing his job; that any of his brothers in the unit would do the same thing.  In fact, he just lived up to what his team leader instructed him to do years before:  “You do everything you can.”

Staff Sergeant Giunta, repeatedly and without hesitation, you charged forward through extreme enemy fire, embodying the warrior ethos that says, “I will never leave a fallen comrade.”  Your actions disrupted a devastating ambush before it could claim more lives.  Your courage prevented the capture of an American soldier and brought that soldier back to his family.  You may believe that you don’t deserve this honor, but it was your fellow soldiers who recommended you for it.  In fact, your commander specifically said in his recommendation that you lived up to the standards of the most decorated American soldier of World War II, Audie Murphy, who famously repelled an overwhelming enemy attack by himself for one simple reason:  “They were killing my friends.”

That’s why Salvatore Giunta risked his life for his fellow soldiers — because they would risk their lives for him.  That’s what fueled his bravery — not just the urgent impulse to have their backs, but the absolute confidence that they had his.  One of them, Sal has said — of these young men that he was with, he said, “They are just as much of me as I am.”  They are just as much of me as I am.

So I would ask Sal’s team, all of Battle Company who were with him that day, to please stand and be recognized as well.  (Applause.)  Gentlemen, thank you for your service.  We’re all in your debt.  And I’m proud to be your Commander-in-Chief.

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West Wing Week ~ OCONUS ~ November 5 – November 11, 2010

Posted by: Audiegrl

Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that’s happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. On a special edition for the trip to Asia this week, walk step by step with the President as he meets with students, citizens, business leaders, and government officials in India, travels to Indonesia to extend a hand of friendship to the Indonesian people, attends the G-20 in Seoul, South Korea, and much more…

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First Lady Michelle Obama’s Germany Veterans Day Visit For U.S. Troops

Posted by: Audiegrl

First Ladies Michelle Obama and Bettina Wulff chat during Obama's visit at the Ramstein Air Force Base on November 11, 2010 in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany

First Lady Michelle Obama surprised a group of some 200 service men and women in Germany on Thursday, jumping in to help serve them steaks at a special Veterans Day meal.

The First Lady talked with the troops at Ramstein Air Base as she served up donated steaks, grilled by volunteers from the Californa-based Cooks of the Valley group, and chatted with their children as they moved through the line.

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A Veterans Day Message from First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden

Posted by: Audiegrl
Written by Dr. Jill Biden


On the eve of Veteran’s Day, I wanted to write today with a simple message to our nation’s veterans: thank you. Over the past two years, I have joined with our First Lady to explore the issues faced by our service members and their families – while they are deployed and once they return home. In my work and travels, I am always inspired by the commitment of our military service members and truly grateful for all they do for our country. This Administration is working hard to care for our service members and veterans – making historic investments in health, family support, education, and economic opportunity for our veterans – but there is a role for every one of us in showing support.

The First Lady and I recently taped the following public service announcement together to honor our Veterans on November 11, 2010 and encourage you to visit Veterans.com and Serve.gov. On Veteran’s Day and every day, it’s our sacred duty to honor the service of those who sacrifice for our country – and we all can play a role. Through groups like MissionServe and opportunities at www.Serve.gov, Americans can find a way to help in their own communities. Please join me in this effort.

Thanks,
Jill

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The President Obama and First Lady Michelle in Indonesia

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet children during a meeting with the U.S. Embassy staff at the Shangri-La Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, Nov. 10, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The President Obama and First Lady Michelle visit Indonesia, where he lived as a boy, in an effort to reach out to the Muslim world.

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Bakso Diplomacy: Obama’s Love For Indonesian Meatball Soup Makes Headlines

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and his wife Kristiani Herawati, drink a toast at a state dinner at the Istana Negara in Jakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

AP~JAKARTA, Indonesia — President Barack Obama’s popularity may be taking a beating at home, but in Indonesia he’ll always be a rock star – thanks to his love for the country’s traditional spicy meatball soup.

His long-awaited return was the talk of the town Wednesday with taxi drivers and officer workers marveling that the boy fondly remembered here as “Barry” rose to become the leader of the most powerful country on the planet.

But most are less interested in his efforts to bridge divides between the West and the Islamic world than in his impeccable accent when he tosses out Indonesian phrases and recollections about the food he loved when he lived here as a child.

Especially the soup sold by street-side vendors called “bakso.”

That was reflected on the front pages of newspapers.

The most widely read Kompas Tempo screamed out: “Obama’s bakso diplomacy!” Others headlined with remarks at state dinner made in Indonesian, and with a huge smile: “Bakso, nasi goreng … semuanya enak!” or “Meatball soup, fried rice … it’s all delicious!”

That cracked up Herry Putranto and his friends, flipping through papers as they shared breakfast at a street stall.

“He even mentioned ’emping’ and ‘krupuk’!” the 31-year-old said, referring to a popular traditional cracker. “Only native Indonesians know that!”

His friend, 29-year-old Irvan Kurniawan, agreed, saying “this is much more interesting than anything he can say about politics … that’s just complicated and boring.”

First Lady Michelle Obama and Mrs. Ani Bambang Yudhoyono, wife of the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, view a display of Indonesian cultural exhibits at the State Palace Complex in Jakarta, Indonesia, Nov. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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