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First lady praises new hiring push for vets

NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Fla. – First lady Michelle Obama chose a naval station in the electoral battleground of Florida to announce Wednesday that 2,000 businesses around the country have hired or trained more than 125,000 military veterans and spouses in the past year, exceeding a White House goal of 100,000 by the end of next year.

Obama also told a crowd of Navy personnel and their spouses at this Jacksonville base that the same companies have committed to hire or train an additional 250,000 veterans and military spouses by 2014. That includes hiring or training 50,000 military spouses within three years – and helping them keep those jobs as families move from one duty station to another.

“I thought this challenge was pretty ambitious and when we first started out, we only had two companies as our partners,” she said. “Soon, those two companies became 20, and then 200 and then 2,000 … These 2,000 companies have not just met our challenge, they’ve exceeded it.”

Obama said that she is repeatedly hearing from companies that some of their best employees are military veterans or their spouses, so the Joining Forces effort isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s helping companies do better.

“They’re doing this because it’s the smart thing to do for their bottom lines,” Obama said. “These companies know that if you can prepare a helicopter engine in Mayport, if you can coordinate thousands of pounds of supplies and deliver them to villages across Afghanistan, then clearly you have what it takes for a manufacturing or a logistics job right here in the U.S.”

The program connects companies with veterans and helps veterans translate their military skills to the private sector. The administration is also pushing states to allow military spouses to transfer professional licenses from state to state to help them get new jobs when their spouses are transferred to a new base.