NORFOLK — President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden spoke Sunday to a line of Norfolk military members and their families at Naval Station Norfolk, serving mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes for dinner.
The pair visited the base for a “Friendsgiving” dinner, donning aprons for the meal. The visit is part of the White House’s Joining Forces initiative — resources and programs meant to support military families. The initiative, championed by Jill Biden, includes child care fee assistance, military spouse employment support and counseling and other resources for health and well-being of military and veteran families, caregivers and survivors. According to previous reporting from The Virginian-Pilot, Hampton Roads has roughly 90,000 active-duty military members.
Biden said military members were the “backbone” of the United States. The president discussed his personal connection as a military family member. His late son, Beau, served in Iraq as a member of the Delaware National Guard.
“You family members are the heart of this operation,” he said.
The first lady has been traveling to military bases across the country and overseas for the initiative, including Coast Guard Air Station Miami in Opa-Iocka, Florida, and Fort Campbell Army Air Field in Oak Grove, Kentucky.
According to the White House, the initiative will have a strong focus on military child education. The program aims to “ease the burdens created by the highly mobile military lifestyle.” Jill Biden said Sunday that many families in Norfolk would have empty tables for Thanksgiving.
In October, 5,000 sailors deployed aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower — the flagship of the Ike carrier strike group. It had long been scheduled to deploy to the Mediterranean. The ship’s deployment comes amid rising tensions in the area.
“You and your families sacrifice so much, in times of war and peace,” the first lady said. “And it’s our duty and honor to make sure that you get support.”
Hundreds of people sat for the Bidens’ remarks at tables draped with dark red tablecloths. Chaplain Brian Stamm opened the meal with a prayer, and young children quickly lined up at the dessert table for pie, ice cream and cheesecake.
Friendsgiving is a Thanksgiving-style event but held with friends instead of family, and it is usually celebrated in addition to traditional Thanksgiving gatherings. In February, the president made a stop in Virginia Beach to discuss his administration’s differences with Republicans on healthcare ahead of releasing his budget plan. Before this year, the last time Biden visited Hampton Roads was May 2021 as part of his “Get America Back on Track Tour.”
Sibrena Sears, whose husband is currently deployed on the Eisenhower, said she is also a former active member of the military, and seeing both sides of the military lifestyle has given her a unique perspective of how hard it can be — especially on holidays.
“One thing I can say that makes it easier is this military community, and events like (Friendsgiving) help bring us together and let us know that we’re not forgotten and we are so important,” she said.
Eliza Noe, firstname.lastname@example.org
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here