By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jon SoucyMarch 1, 2010
WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2010 - Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, joined USO volunteers here Feb. 23 in putting together care packages for the families of 3,000 Florida National Guard servicemembers who will deploy in the coming weeks.
"The items in these packages will make life just a little bit easier for them," Biden said, "whether it's a disposable camera, a grocery store gift card or a pre-paid phone card. For the servicemembers serving abroad and missing their loved ones, these packages will bring some comfort, knowing that their families have not been forgotten."
The event at the District of Columbia National Guard Armory was the first of its kind, USO officials said, because the care packages are for family members rather than for servicemembers.
"It's really a message to all of our military families," said Sloan Gibson, president and chief executive officer of the USO. "It's really a reminder to all Americans of the profound sacrifice that our families are going through at the very same time that their loved ones are serving and sacrificing in harm's way."
Biden, whose son is a captain in the Delaware Army National Guard, understands how much these packages mean to the troops.
"I have seen firsthand just how much a small act of kindness can mean to a servicemember," she said. "When my son, Beau, touched down on U.S. soil after a yearlong deployment to Iraq, he was greeted by veterans and volunteers who shook his hand, handed him a cell phone to call home and said, 'Thank you for your service.'
"He said, 'Mom, you have no idea how that meant to every member who was on that plane returning home.'"
Cheryl McKinley, the wife of Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said she was excited that the USO wanted to include the National Guard in this inaugural event.
"I thought that was a great idea," she said.
As they filled the care packages, volunteers said they hoped that the items would make some aspect of daily life a little easier for the family members of deploying Guardsmen.
"Today is about our military families," Gibson said. "And it's an opportunity for all of us to say 'thank you' to the several thousand National Guard families that are going to receive these packages."
(Army Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy works with the National Guard Bureau.)