Dr. Biden Thanks Marines, Families at Camp Pendleton
By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., Jan. 21, 2012 Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, took a whirlwind tour of the base here yesterday, thanking Marines and their families at each stop along the way.
Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, visits with Marines at the Warrior Hope and Care Center on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Jan. 20, 2012. The center offers counseling and transition services to wounded and ill Marines, sailors and their families. DOD photo by Elaine Sanchez
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Biden’s first stop was the infantry immersion trainer, located down a winding dirt road. This state-of-the-art training complex simulates situations Marines may encounter, both indoors and out, in Afghanistan.
Standing on a rooftop, Biden watched a live-fire exercise unfold on the dusty roads below. The center features a realistic bazaar, complete with shopkeepers calling out to troops to entice them to buy their wares.
A Marine patrol entered the bazaar and, moments later, a loud explosion echoed in the air. A role-player acting as an Afghan woman, whose leg had been “blown off,” fell to the ground, screaming in pain. The Marines rushed to help her as a rocket-propelled grenade, shot from Biden’s rooftop, flew past.
After the Marines secured the area and carried the woman out of the bazaar, Biden descended to survey the scene below. She watched as Marines met with simulated Afghan leaders, then spoke with members of a female engagement team.
The overall experience was incredible, she told reporters on her way out.
“It’s been an amazing experience to be here,” she said. “It made me realize just how difficult it is for our military when they go to Afghanistan and when they went to Iraq. The sights and sounds and smells -- everything is so different than they’re used to.
“Americans should be really proud,” she added.
The experience, she said, also made her think of what her son may have experienced during his deployment. Beau Biden, who is a major in the Delaware Army National Guard, deployed to Iraq for a year in 2008.
Biden’s next stop was to visit with Marines and their families of the 1st Marine Logistics Group’s explosive ordnance disposal unit. A large group of Marines and spouses, kids in tow, sat at long tables waiting to visit with Biden and partake in a barbecue lunch.
In brief remarks upon her arrival, Biden said the Joining Forces campaign is about acknowledging the sacrifices being made by troops and their families, including those in this room. First Lady Michelle Obama and Biden launched this nationwide initiative last year to raise awareness of troops, veterans and their families, and to rally the nation around them.
“I know Michelle would want me to say … thank you for everything you’re doing, for your service to this country, because in this administration you are our priority, to make sure you are well taken care of,” she said. “It’s our sacred honor to take care of you.”
After she spoke, Biden greeted and posed for pictures with nearly everyone in the crowd.
Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Gus Lepping and his girlfriend, Roxanne McKenna, said they were excited to meet Biden. “It’s great she came out and showed her appreciation,” McKenna said. “It was really thoughtful.”
“Her being a mother of a service member who has been deployed before, she obviously understands,” Lepping added. “It’s nice to know she supports us.”
On her way out, Biden viewed a wall of portraits that honors fallen EOD Marines and Navy corpsmen.
Biden’s final stop was at the Warrior Hope and Care Center. This 30,000-square-foot center, part of the Wounded Warrior Battalion West, opened here in October to offer counseling and transition services to wounded and ill Marines, sailors and their families.
The vice president, who had been attending events in Los Angeles earlier that day, joined his wife at the center. They visited with about a dozen wounded warriors and their families.
The vice president said he and his wife visit service members and their families as often as possible for one reason: “To say thank you.”
“We only have one sacred obligation in the government,” Biden told the troops. “We have a lot of obligations -- to the old, to the young, to educate -- but we have only one sacred obligation, and that is to equip those we send to war and care for those we bring home from war.
“It is the single most significant obligation the United States of America has,” he added.
Dr. Biden’s escort, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, commander of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command, noted his gratitude for her visit.
“We are very appreciative she came to visit us today,” he said. “Camp Pendleton has been so much involved in the combat operations for the past 10 years.”
Biden’s visit, “is wonderful for the family and Marines, and I know Mrs. Biden is very appreciate as well,” he added.
The Bidens’ visit here marked the final stop of a three-day West Coast trip. A day prior, Dr. Biden joined a group of educators at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles for a discussion on how schools can better serve and support military families.
Earlier in the week, Biden visited the Veterans Affairs Department’s Palo Alto Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center, where she discussed the continuum of care for wounded warriors with patients, staff and caregivers. Later that day, Biden, alongside U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and Peter Levin, chief technology officer for VA, participated in an “Apps for Heroes” event in San Francisco.