FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (May 3, 2016) — First lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden visited service members and their families stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, May 3. During their visit, the First Lady and Dr. Biden were joined by LeVar Burton, host of “Reading Rainbow,” for a story time event with students on base at Thayer Elementary School.
In 2011, Obama and Biden came together to launch Joining Forces, a nationwide initiative calling all Americans to rally around service members, veterans and their Families and support them through wellness, education and employment opportunities. Joining Forces works hand-in-hand with the public and private sector to ensure that service members, veterans and their families have the tools they need to succeed throughout their lives.
Obama and Biden watched Basic Combat Training Soldiers prepare for and rappel the 45-foot Warrior Tower located at Training Area 136.
“To see someone at their level, experience what we, as drill sergeants, do to shape and mold the future Soldiers of the Army, ranks among the top events of my 16-year career.”
That was the reaction of Sgt. 1st Class Michael Gossman, senior drill sergeant, Company B, 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Chemical Brigade, in regards to the visit of Michelle Obama and Jill Biden who observed Soldiers in training on Fort Leonard Wood Tuesday.
“We spoke about the Soldiers’ nutrition while they are in basic training, and she asked about their physical readiness,” Gossman said. “She seemed excited to get a first-hand view of what we do as drill sergeants and a snapshot of what the Soldiers do during their training.”
Before visiting the Warrior Tower, Obama and Biden made an appearance at Thayer Elementary School for a story-time event.
“Today, you’re going to have two really great books read to you by four amazing people,” said Maj. Gen. Kent Savre, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, in his introduction of Biden and former astronaut Mark Kelly, to the nearly 270 cheering students in the school’s gymnasium.
Biden joined Kelly in reading “Mousetronaut,” a book written by Kelly who flew four shuttle missions and was a member of the U.S. Navy. Kelly is credited with spending 54 days in space in which he was the mission commander on two shuttle missions.
After a brief question-and-answer session, mostly about Kelly’s experience in space, Biden introduced the First Lady and LeVar Burton to read his book “The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm.”
In addition to hosting “Reading Rainbow,” Burton’s acting career includes “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and the TV mini-series “Roots.”
“We feel very honored to have the opportunity to host the group. It is such a rare chance to have a presidential visit like this,” said Dr. Brian Henry, superintendent of the Waynesville R-VI School District.
“We appreciated the time they took to do this, as we serve military students,” Henry added. “It is not every day you get to meet the First and Second Lady or even LeVar Burton of ‘Reading Rainbow.'” It was fantastic. It’s a great honor that shows a commitment to our Soldiers.”
“It is great to have this opportunity to visit Fort Leonard Wood and read to the students with the first lady,” Burton said. “It was an awesome day. Fort Leonard Wood has been a fantastic host. We would love to come back — it was really great.”
The Fort Leonard Wood visit was part of the First Lady and Biden’s weeklong campaign commemorating the beginning of their Joining Forces initiative.
The pair made a guest appearance on NBC-TV’s “The Voice” program Monday as the kick-off event that marks the fifth year of their national initiative encouraging both the public and private sectors to support service members and their Families through employment, education and wellness opportunities.
Photo credit: LeVar Burton, host of “Reading Rainbow,” and first lady Michelle Obama read Burton’s book, “The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm,” to students at Fort Leonard Wood’s Thayer Elementary School, May 3 during a storytime event. (U.S. Army photo by Michael Curtis)