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Obama announces broad new support for military families

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The initiative is headed by first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden
  • It seeks to assure U.S. fighting forces that their families are being helped back home
  • Provisions include counseling, education grants, job assistance and child-care services

Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama on Monday announced a governmentwide series of 50 programs and proposals to increase support for U.S. military families.

The 50 initiatives -- including more counseling to prevent suicides, increased education grants and expanded child-care assistance -- resulted from efforts by first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, to address concerns of military families.

Speaking after his wife and Jill Biden at a White House event, Obama said he heard those concerns directly from Special Forces members when he visited Afghanistan last year.

"I asked them, 'What do you need from me?'" Obama said, and the answer was not more equipment or resources. "They said, to a man, 'Sir, take care of our families. If we know our families are all right back home, then we can do our jobs.'"

As part of the effort, Obama said, the first lady will appear on Oprah Winfrey's television program later this week to announce the nationwide campaign to help military families.

The overall program spans the entire government, Obama said, with 16 Cabinet members signing on to pledge the help of their departments and agencies.

Four main areas of support include improving the quality of life for military families through better community health services, boosting education for military children, helping military spouses continue their education and careers, and increasing child-care assistance for military families, Obama said.

He also pledged an effort get help for homeless veterans, calling for "zero tolerance" on the issue.

The goal is to assure the nation's fighting forces that "when you're over there taking care of the country you love, your country is back here taking care of the family you love," the president said.