First lady Michelle Obama announced Wednesday the launch of a nationwide philanthropic effort to raise millions of dollars to help military families receive the support they need.
"Right now we are in a pivotal moment for our military families and our country," Obama said at an event at the American Red Cross, noting that after 13 years, the war in Afghanistan will be ending.
Obama said America cannot forget its military families.
“We cannot allow ourselves to forget their service to their country," Obama said. “We have to get moving right now. We have to show that their country is here for them not just while they're in uniform but for the long haul.”
Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said in a statement that the Fort Hood shootings and military suicide numbers underscore the need for a sustained, national effort to help veterans.
“This challenge is much more than the government can handle alone. These leading foundations have made a bold, visionary commitment to the future of our community — and the future of our country," Rieckhoff said. "We hope that today’s event and the launch of The Exchange will encourage countless philanthropists of all sizes nationwide to follow their lead and do the same. America’s veterans are not a charity, they are an investment. And there is no more ripe philanthropic investment opportunity than the future of the young men and women who have served in our military since 9/11."
In a Washington Post poll of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, 52 percent said their physical or mental health was worse after the wars, and 46 percent who have detached from the military said the transition to civilian life has been difficult.