USA — Vice President, Dr. Biden Welcome Soldiers Home at Fort Drum

FORT DRUM, N.Y. — Sol­diers of the 10th Moun­tain Division’s 2nd Brigade Com­bat Team received a rous­ing wel­come home from Iraq here today, not only from fel­low sol­diers, fam­i­ly mem­bers and com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers, but also from Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden.

homecoming celebration marking the return of the 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team from Iraq
Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, are wel­comed to Fort Drum, N.Y., for a home­com­ing cel­e­bra­tion mark­ing the return of the 10th Moun­tain Division’s 2nd Brigade Com­bat Team from Iraq. Join­ing the Bidens on the stage are Army Maj. Gen. James L. Ter­ry, 10th Moun­tain Divi­sion com­man­der, and Army Com­mand Sgt. Maj. Christo­pher K. Gre­ca, the division’s com­mand sergeant major.
DoD pho­to by John D. Banusiewicz
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The brigade is one of the Army’s most-deployed units, hav­ing served three deploy­ments to Afghanistan and four to Iraq, and had been deployed to east­ern Bagh­dad since Octo­ber.

Army Maj. Gen. James L. Ter­ry, 10th Moun­tain Divi­sion com­man­der, not­ed that the 2nd Brigade served well in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, in 2006 and 2007, and again from last fall until now.

“Dur­ing the most recent deploy­ment,” Ter­ry told the brigade’s sol­diers, “you have done a mag­nif­i­cent job lay­ing the foun­da­tion for tran­si­tion to Oper­a­tion New Dawn – from train­ing Iraq’s secu­ri­ty forces to enabling pub­lic works projects and pro­vid­ing sim­ple ser­vices to the peo­ple of Iraq, your efforts have been crit­i­cal.”

The vice pres­i­dent not­ed that because their son, Beau, is a Nation­al Guard offi­cer who served a year-long deploy­ment in Iraq, he and Dr. Biden have a spe­cial appre­ci­a­tion for the ser­vice and sac­ri­fices the 2nd Brigade sol­diers and their fam­i­lies have made.

“I think you under­es­ti­mate just how much you do,” he told the more than 2,600 sol­diers and fam­i­ly mem­bers attend­ing the cer­e­mo­ny. “You under­es­ti­mate the awe that you inspire. You under­es­ti­mate the notion that the Amer­i­can peo­ple, when they get to see up-close and per­son­al what you do, have incred­i­bly high regard for all of you. The sac­ri­fices you and your fam­i­ly make on behalf of the Amer­i­can peo­ple are hard to mea­sure.”

Biden said he did­n’t have to study up to know about the 10th Moun­tain Division’s proud his­to­ry, because he’d already heard about it from his long­time friend and col­league in the Sen­ate, for­mer Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, who was severe­ly wound­ed by ene­my fire while serv­ing in the divi­sion as a pla­toon leader.

“You are today’s war­riors,” he said to the 2nd Brigade sol­diers, “and wor­thy of the proud lega­cy you rep­re­sent.”

The military’s mis­sion in Iraq has been com­plex and chal­leng­ing, the vice pres­i­dent said.

“[The mis­sion involved] a war zone with no safe havens and no front lines, an invis­i­ble threat from explo­sives that turned high­ways into death traps, and an ene­my that used sui­cide as a dev­as­tat­ing weapon, requir­ing – and most peo­ple don’t under­stand this – split-sec­ond deci­sions that could save sol­diers’ lives or cause the death of inno­cents,” Biden said. More than a mil­lion U.S. ser­vice­mem­bers have served in Iraq since the war began, the vice pres­i­dent not­ed.

“You and your col­leagues have per­se­vered and suc­ceed­ed,” he told the 2nd Brigade sol­diers. “With your help, Iraq’s lead­ers and secu­ri­ty forces per­se­vered and are suc­ceed­ing. And there­fore, those who sought to make chaos and destruc­tion a hall­mark of the new Iraq have failed because of you.”

Not­ing that he’s been to Iraq on numer­ous occa­sions, includ­ing four times as vice pres­i­dent, Biden told the sol­diers and their fam­i­lies he’s seen the div­i­dends of their ser­vice.

“I know what you’ve sac­ri­ficed, and I know what you’ve accom­plished,” he said. “You and your fam­i­lies have endured mul­ti­ple deploy­ments – four to Iraq and three to Afghanistan for the 2nd Brigade Com­bat Team alone. You have felt the strain of miss­ing anniver­saries and hol­i­days, birth­days, and even the arrival of a new­born child or the loss of a par­ent.

“You have enabled the Iraqi peo­ple to replace a tyrant with a new con­sti­tu­tion, a new par­lia­ment, and two nation­al elec­tions con­duct­ed freely, fair­ly, and, by and large, safe­ly. And per­haps most impor­tant­ly, you have pre­pared Iraq’s secu­ri­ty forces to safe­guard their future as a sov­er­eign, sta­ble, self-reliant coun­try.”

It’s now up to the Iraqi peo­ple and their lead­ers to move for­ward in estab­lish­ing a new per­ma­nent gov­ern­ment, the vice pres­i­dent added, and he expressed con­fi­dence that they would do so.

The home­com­ing here is one of many this sum­mer, as the Unit­ed States ends its com­bat mis­sion in Iraq and draws down to 50,000 troops remain­ing in the coun­try by Aug. 31, in accor­dance with an agree­ment between the U.S. and Iraqi gov­ern­ments. The agree­ment calls for the remain­ing U.S. troops to advise and assist Iraq’s secu­ri­ty forces until all U.S. forces leave Iraq by the end of next year.

Dr. Biden intro­duced her hus­band at the home­com­ing event, and took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to offer her own words of wel­come to the return­ing sol­diers and to share her impres­sion of today’s ser­vice­mem­bers.

“In my trav­els to mil­i­tary bases across our coun­try and abroad,” she said, “I have been tru­ly over­whelmed by the courage of our men and women in uni­form and inspired by the dig­ni­ty and the sense of patri­o­tism that our mil­i­tary fam­i­lies exhib­it every day.”

She not­ed that she and the vice pres­i­dent cel­e­brat­ed the recent Fourth of July week­end with troops in Iraq. “I was hum­bled by their ded­i­ca­tion, their resilience and their pride in the work they were doing. … We are hon­ored to be in your pres­ence today, and are thank­ful for the oppor­tu­ni­ty to thank you and your fam­i­lies for your ser­vice to our coun­try.

“So to all of the fam­i­lies,” Dr. Biden con­tin­ued, “we know you are serv­ing too. And this coun­try appre­ci­ates your courage, your strength and your sac­ri­fice.”

No mil­i­tary fam­i­ly should have to bear its strug­gles alone, Dr. Biden added, not­ing that she and First Lady Michelle Oba­ma have been work­ing togeth­er to ask all Amer­i­cans to do what they can to make the load lighter for the fam­i­lies that are pro­vid­ing for the nation’s defense.

After the home­com­ing event, Dr. Biden vis­it­ed Fort Drum’s Chapel Dri­ve School Age Cen­ter, one of many child-care facil­i­ties on the sprawl­ing post. She toured the facil­i­ty — which includes a gym­na­si­um, a tech­nol­o­gy lab and a home­work cen­ter among its fea­tures – while about 135 chil­dren were par­tic­i­pat­ing in the center’s sum­mer camp pro­gram.

Robin D. Moor, the facility’s direc­tor, showed Dr. Biden around, and at every stop, the chil­dren eager­ly explained what they were doing as they par­tic­i­pat­ed in a wide range of activ­i­ties – some recre­ation­al and oth­ers edu­ca­tion­al.

“We make sure that when they come here, they have a lot of fun things to do while their par­ents are at work or deployed,” Moor said. She also not­ed that the sum­mer camp pro­gram has a full-time fam­i­ly and youth behav­ior­ist with whom chil­dren can talk about their feel­ings and con­cerns about their par­ents’ deploy­ments or oth­er aspects of an Army child’s life.

The chil­dren weren’t shy about ask­ing ques­tions, and were delight­ed to learn that Dr. Biden is a career edu­ca­tor and an Army moth­er. When she told a group of chil­dren that Beau Biden had served a year-long deploy­ment in Iraq, a girl shot up her hand to ask a ques­tion – but it was­n’t about deploy­ments.

“How old is he?” she want­ed to know. Told that Beau Biden is 41, the girl exclaimed, “Wow, that’s 11 years old­er than my moth­er!”

Dr. Biden then con­duct­ed a pri­vate meet­ing with 10 wives of Fort Drum sol­diers to hear their con­cerns and ideas. Before she left, she urged all of the women to stay in touch with her and invit­ed them to pay a per­son­al vis­it if they’re ever in Wash­ing­ton.

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

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