ABC News’ Karen Travers reports:
First Lady Michelle Obama stopped by the Pentagon today as part of her effort to visit all the federal government's departments and agencies and said she was there to first say thank you and also to "shine a spotlight on the service and sacrifices" of the military and their families.
“On behalf of the President, on behalf of the American people, thank you for the service that you display every single day, around the world, often in harm’s way,” the first lady said during her 16th agency visit. “Thank you all, military and civilian, and to your families. You make us so very proud.”
Noting that it was her first time to actually visit the inside of the Pentagon, with its notoriously long corridors and complicated layout, the First Lady told Defense Secretary Robert Gates that she was counting on him to make sure she got out safely.
Mrs. Obama noted the spirit of the Pentagon: “Service before self. Love of country. Dedication to duty. Taking care of each other. It’s the spirit that so many of you have shown in Afghanistan and Iraq and all around the world, year after year, tour after tour.”
Standing behind the first lady were the Pentagon’s longest-serving civilian servants, each with more than 40 years for a grand total of more than 800 years. “That’s an amazing thing. Yes, indeed,” she said. “So we thank you, a special thank you, for your dedication and your commitment.”
The First Lady said that while she could offer “thank yous” all day, she wanted to emphasize that the words were backed up by the deeds of her husband’s administration.
“They’ve worked to improve your quality of life, including better pay, better benefits and better military housing. And they’ve worked to improve care and treatment for our wounded warriors, especially those with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury,” Mrs. Obama said. “This administration understands that we have to take care of these American heroes who take such good care of all of us.”
Mrs. Obama noted that April is the “Month of the Military Child” so she offered a special salute to the sons and daughters who she called “the most mighty of our servants.”
“ They serve in a very special way: trying to stay strong while mom or dad is a world away; recovering -- helping their parents recover from wounds; and in some unfortunate cases they’ve made the ultimate sacrifice and they’ve lost a parent to service,” she said. “And it can be so hard for these kids, probably beyond what we could even imagine. So they need all the support that we can give them, all the love, both at school and at home.”
The First Lady commended Secretary Gates for his leadership in strengthening youth programs and renovating or replacing more than half of the Department of Defense schools, which she said will help tens of thousands of military families and their children.