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.
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)