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President Biden recognizes Navy families during Norfolk stop

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden served dinner to families of ships deployed near Israel. (Photo by Steve Walsh)
President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden served dinner to families of ships deployed near Israel. (Photo by Steve Walsh)

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden served turkey and mashed potatoes at Naval Station Norfolk, home to the two carrier groups deployed around Israel.

USS Eisenhower and the USS Ford are both in the region, part of a massive show of force by the U.S. that started when Hamas attacked Israel in October. The president didn’t address the conflict directly as he spoke to a group of nearly 400 at a helicopter hanger setup for Friendsgiving dinner, a variation of Thanksgiving for friends. 

“We only have one truly sacred obligation and that's to prepare those who we send into harm's way, care for them and their families when they come home and make sure they're never forgotten,” said Biden with Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15 at Naval Station Norfolk.

The president talked about what it was like to wait at home for his son Beau Biden, who deployed multiple times while in the Army. Beau Biden later died of cancer.  

Onstage with the Bidens, Sabrena Sears, whose husband is deployed on the USS Eisenhower, talked about the impact the deployment has on their blended family of five children another on the way. 

 “I don't think there's really much we can say,” Sears said after the event. “He knows about how they're extended, how it hurts. But he also knows there is a job that needs to be done.”

Sears said she avoids the news while her husband Shawn is at sea. 

The USS Ford has already had its deployment extended indefinitely. It left Norfolk along with its carrier group in May. 

The Eisenhower was rerouted to the conflict as a show of force after leaving Norfolk in October. The carrier is now outside the Persian Gulf as attacks on U.S.troops in the region intensifies.

First Lady Dr. Biden addressed the death of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, whose death became public just minutes before the couple took the stage.

“She was well known for her efforts on mental health and caregiving and women's rights,” said the First Lady. “So I hope that during the holidays you'll consider including the Carter family in your prayers.”

After leaving the event, the president’s motorcade stopped outside the gates of the base and talked to people waiting along the road, where the president talked about his relationship with the Carter family.

“You know, they’re really an incredible family, because they brought so much grace to the office,” Biden said.

Steve joined WHRO in 2023 to cover military and veterans. Steve has extensive experience covering the military and working in public media, most recently at KPBS in San Diego, WYIN in Gary, Indiana and WBEZ in Chicago. In the early 2000s, he embedded with members of the Indiana National Guard in Kuwait and Iraq. Steve reports for NPR’s American Homefront Project, a national public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Steve is also on the board of Military Reporters & Editors.

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