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Vice President Biden, Dr. Biden Talk With Kids at USO/TAPS Camp

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

By Joseph Andrew Lee 

Dr. Jill Biden remembered the story clearly.

She and her husband, Vice President Joe Biden, visited Camp Victory, Iraq, over the Fourth of July weekend in 2010. There, she met a general who told her about a concert at his 6-year-old daughter’s school, where one of her classmates burst into tears during the song “Ave Maria.”

The girl told her teacher, who was unaware the girl was from a military family, that it was the song they played at her daddy’s funeral. He died in Iraq.

The story was especially heartbreaking for Dr. Biden, who is both a teacher and a Blue Star parent.

This experience, in part, helped drive the Bidens to visit the USO/TAPS Good Grief Camp Out on Camp Pendleton, Calif., on Friday. They had ice cream with the children and teens and learned about their fallen heroes.

“As a military mom with a son who has deployed and now a second, Hunter, in the Navy, I know the worry,” Dr. Biden said during a phone interview last week. “I know what each day feels like. It’s like wading through water. Like there’s something heavy weighing against you.

“A lot of families have no idea what that’s like and some of these families have deployed five, six, seven, even eight times. To go through that and then to have your worst fear of losing a family member realized. It’s terrible.”

The three-day, two-night USO/TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) event, which was supported by Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, is filled with traditional camp activities combined with grief education and emotional support. Active-duty troops volunteer as mentors, spending the camp with a child who is grieving. The mentors provide a link back to the military for grieving children, who may wonder what it was like for their loved one to serve or who may just feel comfortable being around people in uniform.

The USO helps TAPS facilitate these camps, along with USO/TAPS Survivor Seminars for adults and USO/TAPS Survivor Resource Kits, which consist of free resources for households connected to a fallen serviceman or woman.

Vice President Biden is no stranger to loss and grief. Last year, Biden shared his story with hundreds of surviving families of fallen troops at the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp in Arlington, Va., over Memorial Day weekend. After losing his wife and 1-year-old daughter in an auto accident, he recalled feeling "very angry.”

“I have to tell you, I used to resent people who would come up to me and say, ‘Joe, I know how you feel,’” he said at the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar last year. “You knew they meant well, and you knew they were genuine, but you knew they didn’t have any damn idea how you felt. You’ve been to the top of the mountain, and you know you’ll never see it again. That’s how a lot of you feel. … I’m here to tell you it gets better.”

* * *

Photo caption: Vice President Joe Biden greets military families at Camp Pendleton, Calif., last Friday. (USO photo) 

Join the USO to Honor, Salute and Celebrate Our Troops and Their Families during our current campaign. Learn more today. 

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