First lady, WPAFB ‘Joining Forces’ to support military families

  • Published
  • By By Brian Dietrick
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — Wright-Patterson Air Force Base hosted first lady Jill Biden on March 29 as part of her Joining Forces initiative.

Joining Forces centers on military family needs in the areas of employment and entrepreneurship; military child education; and health and well-being. The initiative is guided by the life experiences and perspectives voiced by military families and stakeholders during these visits.

Dayton Mayor Jeffrey Mims; Gen. Duke Z. Richardson, commander of Air Force Materiel Command; and Col. Christopher Meeker, 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander, were on hand to welcome Biden as she arrived.

Biden, who has a doctorate in education, spent time at Beverly Gardens Elementary School, a Purple Star school, to speak with teachers and helped second-grade students with math problems. According to the White House, Biden meets with military families when she travels, discussing ways to boost employment, child care and resources.

“I’m a military mom,” Biden said at the elementary school in Riverside, where about 77 percent of students are from Air Force families stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB. “I’m a military daughter and a military grandma.”

Pete LuPiba, commissioner of the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission, who founded the Purple Star program, spoke about its importance in Ohio.

“Ohio’s Purple Star school program is meant to help schools respond to the educational and emotional challenges of children in military families, many of whom have frequent deployments, causing their children to move from state to state and school to school,” he said.

To attain Purple Star status, schools must have a trained staff liaison who works with military students and families and the teachers who serve them. They must also have a dedicated webpage featuring resources and hold a military recognition event.

Ohio leads the nation with more than 400 Purple Star schools across the Buckeye State.

Biden then traveled to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, where she spoke with military families, parents of children in the Exceptional Family Member Program, EFMP representatives, veterans, 88 ABW leadership, school liaisons and local community members involved with the special-needs population.

“We want to make sure the military and their families thrive,” the first lady said. “One of the things that really is of ultimate importance to my husband is that the military gets what the military needs, what the families need.”

According to the Department of Defense, there are more than 1.6 million children who face unique challenges and experiences as a result of their parents’ military service.

“My job as the first lady is to travel around the country and hear from our military, hear what’s going right and hear what’s going wrong and take it back to Joe,” Biden said.

Wright-Patterson AFB’s Air Force Research Laboratory was the final stop as Biden visited 711th Human Performance Wing flight nursing students in the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine. Medical specialists discussed the challenges of providing care in a C-130 aircraft under extreme conditions.

With more than 30,000 employees, including military, civilians and contractors, WPAFB is the largest single-site employer in Ohio and largest operating Air Force base in the United States.