Michelle Obama: U.S. Companies Hired 125,000 Vets and Military Spouses, Pledge to Hire 250,000

By Melanie Arter | August 22, 2012 | 2:27 PM EDT

In this July 13, 2012, file photo, first lady Michelle Obama smiles as she honors the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award winners in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

(CNSNews.com) – First lady Michelle Obama, speaking at a joining forces hiring event in Jacksonville, Fla., on Wednesday announced that 2,000 companies have exceeded the president’s goal of hiring 100,000 veterans or military spouses by the end of 2013.

At first only two companies had taken up the president’s challenge, Mrs. Obama said, but that quickly grew to 2,000 companies – like Siemens and Sears as well as small businesses like tech start-ups, restaurants, and transportation providers – who have hired or trained 125,000 veterans and military spouses a year ahead of schedule.

“And soon those two companies became 20 and then 200, and then 2,000, and by mid-March, these companies had already hired 50,000 veterans and military spouses, by mid-April - 60,000, by May – 80,000. And today, I am so proud to announce that these 2,000 companies have not just met our challenge, they’ve exceeded it,” she said.  

“As of today, they have hired or trained 125,000 veterans and military spouses –125,000 – and they’ve done it more than a year ahead of schedule. That’s pretty impressive, and it would be understandable if these companies just stopped now and patted themselves on the back for a job well done and called it a day,” Mrs. Obama said.

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“But instead, these companies are doing just the opposite – they are doubling down on their commitment to all of you.

Those same companies have pledged to hire or train 250,000, including at least 50,000 military spouses, Mrs. Obama said.

She said these companies are hiring veterans, not "just because it’s the right thing to do," but “because it’s the smart thing to do for their bottom lines.”

Mrs. Obama quoted the CEO of Sears, saying, “‘The men and women of our military, their spouses, and their families are some of the most gifted, talented employees we have in the company.”

“These companies know that if you can repair a helicopter engine in Mayport, if you can coordinate thousands of pounds of supplies being delivered 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 first lady said.

“If you can work with sophisticated radars that guide high-speed missiles into other places – outer space – if you can operate complex communication systems in a desert, then clearly you’re ready to succeed in our high-tech industries here at home,” she said.

“If you can work with people from all different cultures and backgrounds, if you can lead dozens, even hundreds of your peers in life or death situations, then clearly you’ve got the management and interpersonal skills that we need in every sector of this economy,” Mrs. Obama added.

She said the number of unemployed veterans is nearly 20 percent lower than it was a year ago.

“So we are moving in the right direction, but – let’s be very clear – we are no where we need to be,” Mrs. Obama said, adding that President Barack Obama is making sure the government is doing its part in increasing veteran employment.

“He proposed a veterans job corp, investing $1 billion to help our veterans become police officers, EMTs, and other jobs serving our communities here at home,” the first lady said.

“And last year, he signed two knew tax credits to make it easier for businesses to create jobs for veterans, including wounded warriors, and he’s fighting to extend those credits before they expire at the end of this year,” she added.