Military Families Meet with Dr. Biden at Holiday Reception
By Shannon Collins
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2014 The vice president’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, hosted a holiday celebration at the vice president’s residence in honor of service members, veterans and their families today. Guests included senior military spouses, guests from the Naval Observatory, Camp David, Full Circle Home and military families whose ornaments decorated eight holiday trees within the residence, five of which were dedicated to the services.
With Kate Wharton, daughter of Army Maj. Gen. John F. Wharton, on her right side, and “Santa” on her left, Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the vice president, admires the decorations on the holiday trees at the vice president's residence. Biden hosted a holiday celebration at the vice president's residence in honor of our nation's service members, veterans, and their families. Guests included military families whose ornaments have been used to decorate several holiday trees in the vice president's residence, senior military spouses, and guests from the Naval Observatory, Camp David, and Full Circle Home. DoD photo by Marvin Lynchard
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
As the Fort Belvoir Elementary School chorus sang Christmas songs, service members dressed in their service dress uniforms escorted their respective spouses and children in their holiday best toward the trees to see their handcrafted ornaments on their service branch trees, to see the photos of deployed members on the mantels or to line up for photos with Dr. Biden.
This year’s theme is “Peace On Earth,” which was reflected in the décor throughout the residence’s festive ornaments, wreaths and ribbons reflecting the sentiment.
Many of the families said they had received an e-mail about making ornaments, but didn’t know where those ornaments would end up. They took on the challenge. Then they were asked to write a little something about their family.
Military Families Come Together
Kate Wharton was chosen to introduce Dr. Biden. Wharton, 12, is the daughter of Army Maj. Gen. John Wharton, commanding general of U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. He is currently deployed and will be deployed throughout the holidays. He has been in the Army for more than 33 years.
“Kate enjoys being part of a military family and she’s so resilient, independent and extremely proud of her father and his service. And we’re extremely proud of you, Kate,” said Dr. Biden, who mentioned that Kate’s father had spent more of Kate’s life away from her than at home and had many deployments to the Middle East under his belt.
Wharton said she was surprised at being chosen.
“I was really surprised, and I was really excited,” she said. “I was a little nervous but it was great. We’re really lucky to be part of the Army family, and we wish all of those who are deployed to have the merriest Christmas that they can have.”
Dr. Biden said because she and her husband invite hundreds of guests into their home during the holidays, they wanted to remind them of the “service and the sacrifices made by our military.”
Dr. Biden’s father served in the Navy during World War II and her son Beau is a major in the Delaware Army National Guard. He has served a yearlong tour in Iraq.
“As a proud military daughter, mother and grandmother to military-connected kids, I understand the mixture of pride and concern that all military families share when a loved one is in harm’s way, and we keep in our hearts all those families who have loved ones serving overseas during this holiday season,” she said. “We owe thanks today and every day to those who wear the uniform. We owe a debt of gratitude to their families because as all of you know, when you have a family member who is serving in the military, the whole family serves. We’re so proud of each and every one of you.”
Family Holiday Stories
After Dr. Biden spoke, Santa came out, led the group in a chorus of “Jingle Bells” and then handed out little German Sheppard stuffed animals named Champ, after the Biden’s pet dog.
For the Green Family, the ornaments began with gathering supplies, painting, decoupage and mod podge.
“Each child drew a picture of their experience in the Air Force,” said Katie Green, wife of Senior Airman Cameron Green, 811th Security Forces Squadron, Joint Base Andrews, Md., who said the ornament was a family project. “Faith drew a picture of our dog, Connor drew a picture of Cameron, who’s been the biggest influence on this journey, and I drew a picture of the Key Spouses. Logan helped me paint.”
She said she had no clue her family ornament was going to be displayed at the vice president’s home.
“It’s incredible,” she said. “How many families get this opportunity, to meet the vice president’s wife and to see the decorations and gosh, to have our family be honored on one of her trees for the Armed Forces? It’s absolutely incredible.”
She said she was honored to meet Dr. Biden.
“Wow, her dress was gorgeous,” she said. “She is one of the highest profile individuals in our country, and how lucky are we to get to spend just a few minutes with her?”
Her son, Connor, 14, attended in his Marine Junior Reserved Officer Training Corps uniform. He said before he attended, he was only halfheartedly thinking about joining the military but now that has changed.
“Now I’m like, 100 percent, no doubt in my mind, that’s where I want to go,” he said enthusiastically. “I want to serve my country. I want my future family to have this experience that I had today; it would be amazing. I never thought I would be able to do something like this.”
Her daughter, Faith, 11, said her teacher was excited for and told her to “have fun.” She said she enjoyed getting the stuffed animal souvenir.
“It was nice and generous of them to give them to kids so they could remember how they were here,” she said.
The White Family made five ornaments in less than two hours, said Nicole White, wife of Air Force Tech. Sgt. James White, an intelligence analyst with the 7th Intelligence Squadron, Fort George G. Meade, Md.
White said one has a photo of her husband and one has a photo of her daughter pinning on her husband. The third has the Air Force symbol with a cross above it and the last two have the Air Force colors.
She said she was surprised at where the ornaments were going and to see them on display at the vice president’s house. She also enjoyed meeting Dr. Biden and interacting with other military families.
“It was nice to be around other military spouses who have the same concerns and questions as you do,” she said. She said her family has been fortunate when it comes to deployments but her husband has been away for several training missions, and they have been apart for almost every year since they have been married.
But she said she’s grateful they are all together this holiday season.
Holiday Wishes for Troops
Some of the spouses said they are thinking of those who cannot be with their family members during the holiday season.
“Happy holidays to all of those who can’t be with their families. Know they you are in our thoughts and prayers every single day. We’re so proud of what you do and hope you can enjoy where you are,” said Deanie Dempsey, wife of Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“You’re not forgotten, no matter where you are or where you’re celebrating, we’re always thinking about you,” said Green. “We’re always preparing and planning for them to come home. Come home safe.”
“May God bless you, and I wish you a warm holiday season. You’ll be in our prayers for you to be reunited with your family as soon as possible and thank you so much for your service,” said Patricia Rang, wife of Navy Commander Russ Rang, Naval Support Facility Thurmont. “It truly takes a special person to commit your life to the service of others, and we are so grateful.”