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First lady visits Pentagon, salutes military families, wounded warriors

First lady Michelle Obama (left) joins host, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, as the National Anthem plays during a gathering April 9, 2010, in Washington, D.C.  The first lady visited the Pentagon and thanked the military personnel and civilian employees serving at the Defense Department. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Amaani Lyle)

First lady Michelle Obama (left) joins host, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, as the National Anthem plays during a gathering April 9, 2010, in Washington, D.C. The first lady visited the Pentagon and thanked the military personnel and civilian employees serving at the Defense Department. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Amaani Lyle)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- First lady Michelle Obama visited the Pentagon April 9 to thank military members, their families and civilians for their ongoing sacrifices in service to the nation.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates introduced Mrs. Obama, who emerged before hundreds of spectators in the Pentagon courtyard.

"She understands the men and women in uniform and their families represent our nation's greatest military asset," Secretary Gates said.

Mrs. Obama pledged her ongoing support of military members and their families and shared her impressions of their dedication.

"Our country has never asked so much for so long of our all volunteer force. You always step up and you always come through," Mrs. Obama said. "Around the nation I've seen the unbelievable love of spouses, wives and husbands, sons and daughters ... today we honor America's gold star families."

Mrs. Obama cited several new family-focused programs such as family and medical leave act extended to military families, additional funding for childcare, counseling, and job placement assistant for military spouses.

A vocal champion of military children and wounded warriors, Mrs. Obama cited April as Month of the Military Child. Later, she met with wounded warriors to thank them for their service.

"Military children are the mightiest of our service, trying to stay strong while mom or dad is a world away," Mrs. Obama said. "I've also been inspired beyond measure by our incredible wounded warriors and their families. We have to take care of these American heroes who take such good care of all of us."

Among American heroes she gave special praise to Airmen, who "reopened the airport in Haiti and operated relief flights 24 hours a day."

She also reminded spectators that whether military or civilian, everyone can be a good citizen and neighbor.

"Every American can do something in service to this country and people around the world," Mrs. Obama said. "Thank you all, military, civilians and your families, you make us so proud."

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