Michelle Obama spent Thursday, March 12 touring Fort Bragg and speaking to community volunteers and officials in neighboring Fayetteville, NC. It was her first trip away from Washington since her husband’s inauguration and was seen by many as her making good on a campaign promise to make military families one of her top priorities.
The first lady spent the early part of the day visiting with soldiers and their spouses and touring the Soldier Support Center and a child development center on post. She read the Dr. Suess book “The Cat in the Hat” to preschoolers in the center and when she told them that she had children of her own, a two-year-old called out, “I know Sasha! I know Malia!” which seemed to charm Mrs. Obama.
In the late afternoon she spoke to about 80 people gathered in the Arts Council building in downtown Fayetteville. The event was invitation-only and most of those present were volunteers with about 30 organizations that help military families. (Blue Star Families had a representative present at the event.) Many had worked on the Boots and Booties baby shower held in Fayetteville in November. More than 900 military moms received baby gifts at the shower and it received national media attention. Mrs. Obama told her audience that efforts such as the baby shower were an example for the rest of the country on ways to help military families.
“I encourage everyone out there, within the sound of my voice, to reach out on your own – through schools, PTA, Little Leagues, churches, workplaces – and find out if there is a soldier or a soldier’s family right there in the community who needs a little extra support,” she said.”
Representatives from Fort Bragg and Fayetteville all said they were thrilled that Obama chose the area as the destination for her first trip as first lady.
Charlene Austin, whose husband, Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, is the commanding general for Fort Bragg, called Mrs. Obama’s visit “a dream come true.” Austin spent much of the day showing the first lady around Fort Bragg and said that she now feels like the military community has an advocate in the first lady. “We truly are all in this together,” Austin said.
Kristie Lozano, who works with the Fayetteville/Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce, said she thought it was especially nice that the first lady took the time to meet some of the civilians who support the military families at Fort Bragg. “She seems to completely understand that support around an installation is integral to the success of the soldiers,” Lozano said “I’m just glad the first lady understands how important it is for Americans to support those who have been sacrificing for us for a very, very, very long time.”