WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- First lady Michelle Obama praised the "9/11 generation" of U.S. military members who have served since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"They're the 9/11 generation -- the more than 5 million service members who have worn the uniform this past decade and their families," Obama wrote in an opinion piece in USA Today.
"They've rightfully earned not only the admiration of a grateful nation, but also a place in history alongside our greatest generations."
The first lady noted more than 2 million members of the armed fores have served in war zones in the past decade, including an unprecedented number of National Guard members and reservists.
"We've never asked so much of our all-volunteer force," she said.
She also lauded the families of military members -- spouses balancing careers and child-rearing, young children who know only a nation at war, teens accustomed to not seeing a parent for long periods and survivors of fallen soldiers.
"No matter what the situation or how many directions they're being pulled in, our military families always stand ready to serve their loved ones, their communities and our country," Obama said. "After 10 years of war, it's our turn to return their service and sacrifice with honor and appreciation of our own -- and not just in word, but in deed."
She called on businesses to employ veterans and help military spouses build careers and urged citizens to help serve military families through organizations in their communities. Obama pointed to Joining Forces, an initiative to serve military families she and Vice President Joe Biden's wife, Jill, started last spring. (The organization's Web site can be found at www.joiningforces.gov.)
"As we reaffirm our commitment to hold dear the heroism, strength and compassion we saw on Sept. 11, let's also pledge to keep our military families in our hearts long after this anniversary has passed," Obama said. "These men, women and children have served valiantly in the decade since that fateful day. Now it's up to us to serve them as well."