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Published: Thursday, 4/14/2011

Michelle Obama, Jill Biden announce military effort while in Columbus

First lady Michelle Obama speaks in on the Joining Forces initiative to employ military spouses. First lady Michelle Obama speaks in on the Joining Forces initiative to employ military spouses.

COLUMBUS - First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, the wife of the vice president, kicked off an employment effort for spouses of military service members in a Sears warehouse here Thursday.

With gray and red Craftsman garden tractors stacked five-high as their backdrop, Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden joined with Sears Holdings Co. officials to announce their initiative, Joining Forces.

Mrs. Obama and others pointed out the stresses on military families when the husband or wife is deployed overseas or to another military station.

She said spouses lose seniority because they have to keep starting over when they are re-deployed, and may have a disadvantage in the job market if their resume shows multiple jobs.

But she said military spouses have higher high school graduation rates than the general population and more than 80 percent of spouses have some college education as well. And, she said, military spouses have learned how to .“weather adversity and adapt to changing circumstances.”

“Jill and I think that military spouses are some of the hardest working and most talented people we know and we think it's time our country finally tapped into their full potential and took advantage of all these folks have to offer,” Mrs. Obama said.

Mrs. Biden, a military mom, said she and Mrs. Obama see Joining Forces as a way for Americans to support the troops and thank them for their service.

Under Sears' new plan, the company said it will commit to provide jobs for transferred service members or spouses at a nearby Sears, Kmart, or Lands End.

Sears calls its program PCS Promise, to cover cases of Permanent Change of duty Station (PCS), retirement, or separation, with jobs depending on job availability and performance. The company will conduct a virtual career fair for military spouses this summer.

Also, Walmart and Sam’s Club, Siemens Corporation, SCORE, Cisco/Futures, Indeed.com and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced commitments to hiring and training initiatives for veterans, service members, and spouses.

Columbus is one of several stops the two women are making this week, along with Hilda Solis, the U.S. secretary of labor.

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