Irak — Bidens Celebrate Independence Day With Troops in Iraq

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq, July 4, 2010 — As Amer­i­cans back home cel­e­brat­ed with fire­works and fes­tiv­i­ties, Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, opt­ed to spend their Fourth of July hol­i­day in Iraq, thank­ing U.S. troops for the ser­vice and sac­ri­fice that help to ensure the nation remains free.

Independence Day
Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden eats lunch and chats with sol­diers at the Sports Oasis din­ing facil­i­ty on Camp Vic­to­ry, Iraq, July 4, 2010. Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, spent Inde­pen­dence Day vis­it­ing Iraq and min­gling with sol­diers.
U.S. Army pho­to by Sgt. Teri Hansen
Click to enlarge

In the morn­ing, the cou­ple presided over a nat­u­ral­iza­tion cer­e­mo­ny in the ornate Al Faw Palace here in which more than 150 ser­vice­mem­bers became U.S. cit­i­zens.

“You rep­re­sent what Amer­i­ca has always stood for: strength, resolve, sac­ri­fice and diver­si­ty,” the vice pres­i­dent told America’s newest cit­i­zens. “For me, this cer­e­mo­ny is only a for­mal dec­la­ra­tion of what the pres­i­dent and I and your fel­low coun­try­men believe to be true: You are already Amer­i­cans.”

The Bidens then vis­it­ed with troops in the Sports Oasis din­ing facil­i­ty here, which was decked out in red, white and blue for the hol­i­day. They cir­cled the crowd­ed din­ing hall, tak­ing time to per­son­al­ly greet ser­vice­mem­bers and to pose for pho­tos when­ev­er request­ed.

Dr. Biden took her lunch tray to a table of female ser­vice­mem­bers, whom she encour­aged to voice their fam­i­ly-relat­ed issues and con­cerns.

“They told me about some of the chal­lenges they face, like leav­ing their chil­dren. “For some, both the hus­band and the wife were deployed, and that made it even more dif­fi­cult for them,” Dr. Biden said in an inter­view with Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice. “And many had been deployed sev­er­al times. I lis­tened to their sto­ries.”

Army Sgt. Con­stance Stevens, a moth­er of four, took part in the dis­cus­sion with Dr. Biden. Stevens and her hus­band, Army Spc. Tom Stevens, are both deployed here for the sec­ond time, after only nine months at home. The lunchtime dis­cus­sion, she said, ranged from cop­ing with fam­i­ly sep­a­ra­tions to sex­u­al assault.

“You can tell she has a lot of respect for ser­vice­mem­bers,” she said. “She talked about her son being over here. You can tell it’s emo­tion­al for her.” The Bidens’ son, Beau, who is Delaware’s attor­ney gen­er­al, is a cap­tain in the Delaware Army Nation­al Guard who was deployed in Iraq this time last year.

After lunch, the vice pres­i­dent depart­ed to meet with senior Iraqi lead­ers, while his wife head­ed to an Inde­pen­dence Day cel­e­bra­tion for 1st Armored Divi­sion sol­diers.

She walked into the room to a stand­ing ova­tion and thun­der­ous applause. She thanked the sol­diers for their ser­vice, and stressed her ongo­ing com­mit­ment to the troops and their fam­i­lies.

She kept her remarks short, pre­fer­ring instead to speak per­son­al­ly with sol­diers. A line of sol­diers wait­ing to shake her hand quick­ly formed, and Dr. Biden took time to meet with each one.

“When peo­ple come to see us, it’s like a slice of home,” said Army Chief War­rant Offi­cer 2 Ben­jamin Smith, after meet­ing Dr. Biden. “It’s nice to know they’re think­ing of us.”

Last on Dr. Biden’s agen­da was an Inde­pen­dence Day bar­be­cue with troops of the 2nd Infantry Division’s 4th Stryk­er Brigade Com­bat Team. She greet­ed the sol­diers before sit­ting down to eat with sev­er­al of the troops. “It’s great that [Dr. Biden’s] tak­ing time to meet with troops, espe­cial­ly on Fourth of July,” Army Sgt. Bryce Dublee said. “It means a lot to the guys.”

Dr. Biden said she feels as if she’s among fam­i­ly. “I’m a mil­i­tary mom — my son, Beau, is in the Army,” she told the sol­diers. “I feel like you are my extend­ed fam­i­ly.” Dr. Biden summed up her hol­i­day as “amaz­ing.”

“It just reminds me how all these men and women are such heroes,” she said. “I’m just one per­son see­ing it. I wish all Amer­i­cans could real­ly see what they’re doing on a day-to-day basis.

“I don’t think I can real­ly find words to express my grat­i­tude and pride for our sol­diers,” she con­tin­ued. “It’s a great way to spend the Fourth of July, thank­ing our troops for what they’ve done for us.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)