First Lady Jill Biden visited with military spouses during the USO Military Spouse Connection event at Fort Carson military base south of Colorado Springs, Colo., on Thursday, May 6, 2021, to celebrate military spouses ahead of Military Spouse Appreciation Day this Friday. (Video by Skyler Ballard)

Thank you.

That's the message first lady Jill Biden shared with military spouses during a visit to Fort Carson on Thursday, a day ahead of Military Spouse Appreciation Day.

Dozens of spouses gathered at the Mountain Post outdoors to hear from and talk with Biden, who walked from table to table, asking spouses about their struggles and concerns during a USO Spouse Connection gathering.

“We cannot expect to retain even our most dedicated service members if they are forced to choose between their love of country and their love of family,” Biden said during her speech. “The president knows that there is no greater honor than serving those who serve our country. And that means everyone who serves, all of you.”

Biden acknowledged common struggles many military spouses face, including loneliness, anxiety and obtaining better mental health services and affordable childcare.

Christine Laramee, whose husband is an officer with Fort Carson’s 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade, said finding quality and affordable childcare has been especially difficult.

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Her husband is deployed and she works as a physician's assistant. Any time the daycare facility she was using had a COVID-19 exposure, it shut down for two weeks. She hired a nanny service, but that quickly became too expensive. Her mom has flown out from across the country to help, but that wasn’t a permanent fix.

“It’s really difficult to find a practical solution,” Laramee said.

Biden — whose father served as a Navy signalman and her late son, Beau, served in the Delaware National Guard — said she understands what military spouses are going through.

“You’ve learned how to push through the hard times, how to adapt and persevere and keep going,” Biden said during her speech. “But these challenges shouldn’t be harder than they need to be, and that’s why Joining Forces, our White House initiative to support military, means so much to me. Your service to this country has earned nothing less. And giving you the support you need to thrive matters to me and to the president.”

Amy Cerman, whose husband is a sergeant with the Army National Guard and is currently deployed overseas, said it was a thrill to meet the first lady.

“I love that she is here,” Cerman said. “It is such a wonderful treat.”

Courtney Garcia, an Air Force spouse whose husband is also overseas, talked with Biden about the difficulty of being separated for long periods of time. Her husband will be based at Peterson Air Force Base later this year following his deployment.

“I thanked her for her support,” Garcia said. “She has always been supportive of military families, and that is tremendously close to my heart.”

Allison Szorady — another spouse of an officer with Fort Carson’s 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade, which is currently deployed — said it was nerve-wracking and special to meet Biden.

I’ve never met a first lady before or anyone of this magnitude,” Szorady said. “To have her take time out of her busy schedule to come here and meet with us has been extraordinary. And the fact that she wants to put military first and make things better for us is incredible. We couldn’t ask for more.”

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