WASHINGTON — Michelle Obama has been everywhere from a West Point mess hall to a NASCAR speedway in the past year to drum up support for military families, and now she's capping the yearlong effort with a two-day, four-state tour to take stock of what's been done.
Mrs. Obama is marking the anniversary of her "Joining Forces" initiative on Wednesday with a White House ceremony where she'll recognize businesses, community groups and other organizations working to help members of the armed forces, veterans and military families.
Then she and Jill Biden, the wife of the vice president, will travel to Pennsylvania, New York, Louisiana and Florida to celebrate all things military and announce two new milestones for the campaign:
—A commitment by more than 150 nursing organizations and hundreds of nursing schools to train current and future nurses on how to recognize and care for those with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. The injuries have affected 1 in 6 of the troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq — more than 300,000 veterans.
—The hiring of the 50,000th person under the president's pledge last summer to promote the employment or training of 100,000 more veterans and military spouses by the end of 2013. Because military families move around so much, it can be hard for spouses to find and keep good jobs. Companies have pledged to hire 160,000 more veterans and spouses in coming years.
Recognizing the importance of the media in generating excitement for military needs, the first lady also will appear Wednesday night on Stephen Colbert's TV show, "The Colbert Report."
It's only the latest in a string of TV appearances by the first lady to draw more attention to the needs of military families. Over the past year, she's talked up military needs on CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman" and Nickelodeon's "iCarly" and helped renovate a shelter for homeless veterans on an episode of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."
Rene Campos of the Military Officers Association of America credited the White House for "really putting a face on what it means to serve and have served."
"That's an incredible thing to happen when only 1 percent has served," she said. "This is a good way to share with the other 99 percent of the country what it means to live in military life and be a veteran and be a family member of those who have served."
The initiative can only be good for President Barack Obama's re-election campaign as well, offering the administration a patriotic platform that's guaranteed to be popular even if the war in Afghanistan is not.