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Bidens Thank Sailors Aboard USS Ronald Reagan

By Navy Seaman Alexander Tidd
Special to American Forces Press Service

SAN DIEGO, May 15, 2009 – The vice president and his wife visited USS Ronald Reagan here yesterday as part of a familiarization tour of naval facilities in southern California.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands on the pier with sailors from Nitmitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. The vice president and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, visited Ronald Reagan during a familiarization tour of naval facilities in the San Diego area. Reagan is preparing for its upcoming deployment to the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean later this spring. U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Apprentice Amanda L. Ray

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

While aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, Vice President Joe Biden announced the Defense Department’s plan to expand its housing assistance program with $555 million for servicemembers forced to sell their homes at a loss during the country’s struggling housing market.

During their tour, Biden commented on the Ronald Reagan Strike Group's successful 2008 deployment, which included humanitarian assistance in the Philippines and combat operations in Afghanistan.

"You are agile, capable in a variety of missions, and you're brave enough to succeed every time you are deployed," Biden told the 2,000 sailors.

"A grateful nation owes you," he said.

Much to the delight of the crew, the vice president and his wife, Jill Biden, sat down for lunch with Ronald Reagan sailors after his speech.

"It's exciting, a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate Airman Elizabeth Irby. "I was speechless when he sat down with us. He was intriguing and inspirational."

"Having the vice president visit is something I wouldn't get to do in any other job," added Machinist's Mate Fireman Alecia Guerrera. "It's nice to hear his support for the military and Reagan in particular."

The vice president posed for hundreds of photos with sailors, thanking them individually for their service.

"I hope you all realize how much we support you," he said.

Jill Biden, who along with First Lady Michelle Obama advocates for military families, met later with area ombudsmen to discuss family readiness issues.

"Your loved ones will not be alone when you deploy," she told the Ronald Reagan crew. "Your country appreciates your courage and strength."

USS Ronald Reagan is the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 7 and the ninth of 10 Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. The ship is named for the 40th president. Its motto, "peace through strength," was a recurring theme during the Reagan presidency.

(Navy Seaman Alexander Tidd writes for Navy News Service).

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