WASHINGTON -- And on Day 52 of the Obama administration, first lady Michelle Obama made her first solo out-of-town trip.
Mrs. Obama on Thursday morning made a day trip to North Carolina, where she met with military personnel and their families at Fort Bragg, later speaking in Fayetteville.
The soldiers greeted her with cheers and applause, according to a pool report. Later, she read from the Dr. Seuss classic The Cat in the Hat to a dozen preschoolers at a day-care center. She also visited with four toddlers making "thank you" cards for wounded soldiers.
For a travel debut, Mrs. Obama and her team picked safe, familiar territory. During the presidential campaign, she hosted a roundtable with military spouses in Fayetteville.
"I'm delighted to be back. This has been an exciting, fabulous day," she told a group at the Fort Bragg Community Center, her last stop. "Military family members have their own special courage and strength."
But the nation needs to do more to help them out, Mrs. Obama said.
"But as my husband, the President, said recently in his address at Camp Lejeune,
service doesn't end with the person wearing the uniform; the war doesn't end
when a soldier returns home. Military family members have their own special
courage and strength.
"I have met husbands and wives who keep the family on track while their wives and
husbands are deployed or on duty. I've met grandparents, and aunts and uncles,
sisters and brothers who take care of children while single moms and dads are
away. I've met moms and dads who both serve in uniform and leave their children
in the care of family when they're both deployed. I've met mothers and fathers
who have lost their beloved children to war.
"Our soldiers and their families have done their duty. They do it without
complaint. And we as a grateful nation must do ours and do everything in our
power to honor them by supporting them.
"The President recently announced plans to improve housing, to expand child care,
to raise military pay, to expand job training for spouses, to implement the
21st-century GI Bill, and expand counseling and support for families who are
dealing with the stress of deployment and war.
"These are the issues that soldiers and their families have discussed with me
over the last couple of years - and I heard about it again today. Military
families bear a very heavy burden and, again, they do it without complaint.
"But as a nation, we need to find ways to lighten their load."
Thursday's sessions built on her signature themes -- working with military families, women and children. On March 3, Mrs. Obama visited the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Center at Arlington National Cemetery, pegging the visit to Women's History Month.
Wednesday, Mrs. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made their first joint appearance at the State Department to mark International Women's Day. Later, Mrs. Obama was at the ceremony where President Obama created the White House Council on Women and Girls.
Said Clinton,, "And I am especially delighted to thank one person in particular whose presence here means a great deal to all of us: our first lady, Michelle Obama. "Now I know a little bit about the role that -- Michelle Obama is filling now. And I have to say that in a very short time she has, through her grace and her wisdom, become an inspiration to women and girls, not only in the United States but around the world.''