After meeting with wounded Marines, first lady Michelle Obama told thousands of troops and their families Sunday that she is launching a national challenge to Americans to find ways to support them.
Since her husband took office, Obama has been visiting bases across the country as part of her mission to improve the quality of life for military families. She called Camp Pendleton and the surrounding Southern California cities a model for community support of troops.
But California Republicans called the event a publicity stunt to help Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who is running for a fourth term and has been criticized by opponents for not doing enough to support troops. President Barack Obama flew to California last month to support Boxer's fundraising efforts for her campaign.
The first lady said she came to Camp Pendleton for a simple reason: "To help the rest of our country better understand and appreciate the incredible service of you and your families, and to make sure your voices are heard back in Washington and that your needs are met."
Boxer spoke only minutes to the crowd of about 3,500 troops and families, telling them how President Obama's economic recovery act provided funding to build a new hospital that will replace the 36-year-old facility on base, and gave money toward a new child care center.
She thanked the military wives who met with her, saying: "Some of my best ideas that have led to legislation for mental health benefits, compensation, etc. These have come from you directly."
Legislation proposed by Boxer recently provided money for a new wounded care treatment facility in San Diego and treatment for burn victims in San Antonio, Texas.
Republican rival, Carly Fiorina has challenged Boxer's legislative record on supporting the troops. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO tried to fire up the GOP base by showing a widely played video clip of the longtime senator reprimanding a general for calling her "ma'am" at a Senate hearing last year.
Her campaign manager called Boxer's appearance at Camp Pendleton rich in irony.
"The bottom line is that Barbara Boxer has shown a total disregard for our men and women in uniform, and her record on security issues is, to put it generously, dismal," Fiorina's deputy campaign manager, Julie Soderlund, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
"Today, she's getting some help yet again from the Obamas in an attempt to try to mask that over. But the facts are the facts. And the facts bite, especially for those who put their lives on the line every day to protect this great nation."
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