"For all of you out there who might be spouses or moms or dads, I know that you're doing it all," the first lady told a pep rally of thousands of military members and base workers at the base house at Camp Lejeune before the baby shower. "Military families are so good at keeping everything together that it's almost like you're wearing camouflage, even though you're not the ones on the battlefield."
Later, at the party for some 40 mothers-to-be, the first lady and Jill Biden joined in saluting the women. Michelle Obama told them that she knows all too well the stress of running a household, juggling family finances, holding down a job and keeping up with child care duties.
She told them not to be afraid to seek help from a new program she unveiled a day earlier called Joining Forces, which is designed to raise awareness and support for military families.
Glancing over at Jill Biden, Michelle Obama told the crowd: "We're all proud of you for holding it together while your man is doing something hard."
Operation Shower, a nonprofit group formed to help women in military families who are expecting, organized the shower that featured an appearance by Stewart in a scrapbooking demonstration that encouraged the women to preserve family memories. Gifts handed out at the shower also included blankets, stuffed animals, pillows and diapers for newborns. Many of the items were donated by White House employees.
"We had boxes all over the West Wing and the East Wing," Michelle Obama said. "This was a fun way to give back."
Sponsors of the event included a company that donated a $600 crib to each of the expectant moms, a child- and elder-care provider that raffled off a $12,500 check -- enough to cover child-care costs for a year - and a baby bedding retailer that gave each woman a $400 gift certificate.
Becky Palmer, from Pensacola, Fla., won the drawing for the $12,500 check. Her husband, Daniel, is a Marine lance corporal who was wounded in Afghanistan last year and lost a portion of his leg.
"When I told him about winning the check, he asked me how I did it," Palmer said. "I said I don't know. All I know is it is going to be really helpful."
The shower was an emotional experience for Kaniya Knight, 20, who is expecting twins in June. Not only is her husband deployed, her mother will be leaving for Germany with her Army husband at the end of April.
"I wasn't able to give her a shower, so this was not only a surprise but a godsend," said Knight's mother, Cassandra Moore.
Knight moved to Jacksonville three months ago and has been hospitalized part of that time due to premature labor signs.
"I didn't have any of this stuff," she said, examining the large box of diapers, clothes, and baby accessories. "I feel lucky."
During the pep rally earlier in the day, Michelle Obama told military families they deserve more recognition for their sacrifices.
"People can't always see your special brand of service because you don't wear it on your sleeve," she told some 3,000 military members and base workers. "Your 'ordinary' is extraordinary. That's why we are here today."
The first lady said anyone can contribute to the Joining Forces effort -- from teenagers offering to babysit to major corporations adopting more military-friendly policies.
The first lady and Jill Biden both said Jacksonville and the surrounding area are models for community support of the military.
Jill Biden told the crowd she could empathize because her son was deployed in Iraq for a year as part of his National Guard duties. She said the situation elicits "a powerful mix of emotions."
"I know how much you worry; I know how much you pray," Biden said.
Col. Daniel J. Lecce, commanding officer of Marine Base Lejeune, called the event was a "huge morale boost" for the Marines and others in the military.
"It's hard being deployed, and it's good for them to know that everybody at home has their back," Lecce said.
After leaving North Carolina, Obama and Biden were to head to San Antonio for an encounter with members of the Warrior and Family Support Center, and then to Denver for a baseball game with Colorado military families.
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