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Originally published Monday, April 11, 2011 at 3:38 PM

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More than gratitude for military families

First lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the vice president, are leading a national effort to provide more support for military families.

AS the United States supports military forces in three war zones, the families left behind will get more attention thanks to efforts launched Tuesday by the White House.

More is at work than gratitude and ensuring an oblivious civilian population provides for those who share in the sacrifices of the men and women in uniform. Certainly that element is present.

A scant handful of Americans have served in the military since the country stopped conscripting soldiers in 1973. Nor has the public been directly asked to sacrifice to support conflicts, with their trillion-dollar expenses taken off-budget.

While no one was watching, the demographics changed too. More than half of active-duty National Guard and reservists are married. An estimated 43 percent have two children.

Instead of drafting legions of young men, force requirements are filled through enlistments and heavily augmented with the call-up of reserve units. The mix has more women and older men, who leave families and jobs to serve.

Add in the role of the military as a de facto employment program in tough times, and the dynamic changes. For reservists the cycle repeats again and again.

First lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the vice president, will visit cities across the U.S. in the next two days to promote "Joining Forces," a program coordinated by the Center for a New American Security.

The White House recruited retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal to one of three key advisory positions.

They will lead what is described as a coordinated, comprehensive appeal to community organizations — employers, educators, philanthropists and faith groups — to be mindful of the needs in their area.

Military families have been overlooked as they shared the strain of separation from loved ones in harm's way. Their numbers now defy any response but an extended hand.

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