During the State of the Union address last night, NLC President Marie Lopez Rogers joined First Lady Michelle Obama in the gallery, a clear recognition of the vital role that cities play in strengthening our nation. Among the many topics covered, the President announced his intention to withdraw approximately 34,000 American troops from Afghanistan in the coming year, with a complete withdrawal by the end of 2014.
Notably, the President also took time to specifically thank the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden for their work around the reintegration needs of our veterans. With the withdrawal from Afghanistan in motion, the issues facing our returning veterans and the opportunities their return presents to cities are timely.
The connection between the return of our veterans and the need to focus on strengthening our communities is both simple and complex. The concept is simple, but taking meaningful action can be a complex process. We know how valuable our veterans are and how thankful we are for their service. We recognize they possess unique character traits and desirable skill sets that can benefit local businesses and the community at large. However, they also may face distinctive challenges requiring comprehensive and coordinated responses from multiple stakeholders.
Local leaders are in a unique position to bring people together to figure out what is already happening, what is working and what is not. At the Congressional City Conference, local leaders will have the opportunity to learn specific and pragmatic steps to take to initiate or expand on current community efforts to support our veterans and help them thrive.
NLC will have two sessions featuring national leaders and government representatives discussing the available resources and how to access them locally. Examples of key stakeholders to have during community forums as well as examples of what cities are already doing to support the reintegration of our veterans will also be highlighted at these sessions. An additional highlight will be hearing directly from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.
Supporting our veterans by ensuring effective resource coordination will provide them with the best opportunities to fully reintegrate and contribute to their communities. With so many veterans returning home to communities that are in need of strengthening, now is a unique time for local leadership to create lasting change.