We all know military homecoming videos can be addicting.
Like this one, with a father who surprises his third-grade daughter at school. Or this one, featuring a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy who secretly learned to walk while his father was in Afghanistan.
Once you start, you sort of can't stop. Neither can First Lady Michelle Obama, who admitted today at a Joining Forces event at the American Red Cross that she binge-watches military homecoming videos.
"I don't know about you, but I could watch those videos all day," she said. "These scenes tug at our heartstrings … but these heartfelt moments raise so many questions and so many concerns: What happens after the cameras are turned off? After the rest of us have gone on with our lives, what's next for those families?"
Returning veterans often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries, Mrs. Obama pointed out. In addition to serving as caregivers for their spouses, military husbands and wives may have trouble finding work, and their children struggle to cope with repeated moves and constant uncertainty, she said.
"For most of us as Americans, that surprise homecoming, that feel-good moment, that's the happy ending to the story, but for these families, it's really just the beginning," the first lady said.
The Veterans Philanthropy Exchange, a new association of more than 30 military support charities, has pledged $102 million in funding for military families over the next five years, the first lady announced today. That's on top of their existing $62 million pledge.
"We are at a pivotal moment. By the end of this year, after 13 long years, our war in Afghanistan will finally be over," Mrs. Obama said. "More and more of our newest veterans, the 9/11 generation, will be hanging up their uniforms and transitioning to civilian life."
"It's going to be easy for us to forget the burdens they've shouldered," she added. "We've got to show our veterans and military families that our country is there for them, not just while they're in uniform, but for the long haul."