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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving - Vice Presidential Style

Vice President Joe Biden and Second Lady, Dr. Jill Biden celebrated Thanksgiving with the military servicemen at the Naval Observatory on Monday.

A pool report, below, gives the deets.

The mouth-watering smells of stuffing and turkey, a crackling fire, guests with bowed heads giving thanks for “second chances” -- Vice President Biden and Dr Jill Biden hosted their fourth Early Thanksgiving For Wounded Warriors on Monday, welcoming servicemen and –women and loved ones to the Naval Observatory.

“Jill and I want to welcome you to the vice president’s home. This is your home,” the VP said in brief remarks as the 26 guests sat at two large tables in the residence’s dining room. He spoke from behind a lectern with the VP’s seal on it, Jill Biden at his side. Candles fluttered over their shoulders on the mantelpiece of the fireplace, in which a robust blaze was already crackling. A Navy harpist played before his remarks.

The vice president said he and his wife were “honored and, quite frankly, flattered” to host the dinner. “It’s one of the highlights and honors of this job.”

“We’re just so incredibly proud of you,” the VP said. “We can never – and I mean this sincerely – never, ever repay you and your families for the sacrifices you’ve made.”

Per the vice president’s office, the wounded warriors are all being treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. They were chosen “because they have indicated they will likely not be able to leave the DC area to be with family for the Thanksgiving holiday.” There were five from the Army, four from the Marines, and one from the Air Force. (Thumbnail bios at the bottom of his pool report). Two were in wheelchairs.

Hungry little Oliver Elliott, the 8-month-son of Marine Corps Captain Tommy Elliott of St Claire, IL, sang out a couple of times from his high chair as the VP spoke. “Don’t worry about the baby, it’s ok,” Biden assured his guests. Oliver grew quiet when his mother Deborah gave him his bottle – but by the time your pooler was leaving the room, other guests had yet to dig in to the spread.

The VP paid tribute to military families, noting that his son served in Iraq for a year. He described how, during Beau Biden’s deployment, he would find Jill Biden in the kitchen every morning, mouthing a prayer. More than once, he noted that only a tiny percentage of Americans had served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Biden promised the wounded veterans that “the most encouraging thing you’re going to see in your lifetime, in the near term, is some incredible, incredible, incredible medical breakthroughs” in everything from prosthetics and treatment for severe brain injuries to help for post-traumatic stress.

Jill Biden, who wore a Blue Star Mother pin signifying that she’s a military mom, also cited her son’s time in Iraq.“Our son Beau was deployed four years ago, so I know what it’s like to have a loved one who’s not at the table,” she said. Dr Biden highlighted her work with military families.

“As Joe said, I do believe in the power of prayer. And it was prayer that helped me get through that year,” she said. “And I think probably for many of you it’s prayer that’ll help you get through these tough times.” (Chaplain Stan Fornea said a prayer, and the assembled diners bowed their heads. He gave thanks for “the gifts of freedom, love, opportunity and second chances.”)

“The bad news is you guys at this table start off with me,” Biden said, drawing laughs from the guests. The Bidens planned to meet all of their guests throughout the meal.

It was a lovely but crisp evening, the flag fluttering intermittently outside the VP’s residence. Light peeked through the blinds as the pool walked up the drive, suggesting the warmth and comforts of home.
The menu, per the VP’s office follows...

“Buttermilk Brined Roast Turkey
w/ Lemon-Parsley Gravy, Country Bread Dressing, Parmesan Mashed Potatoes, Graham Cracker Sweet Potato Gratin, Roasted Vegetable, Macaroni & Cheese, Snap Beans w/ Caramelized Shallots & Roasted Mushrooms, Fall Harvest Salad, Apple-Pecan Cranberry Relish, Maple-Ginger Pumpkin Pie,
Old Fashioned Lattice Apple Pie
& Thanksgiving Pecan Pie”

SPC Ashley Durham, 26 of Seneca, SC (Army) – Wounded Warrior was in attendance.  She was accompanied by his fiancĂ©e, Kayla Eisenhower.

Also attending were SSG Brian Keaton, 38 of New Albany, IN (Army) – Wounded Warrior Brian was accompanied by his wife, Kristen Keaton and three children (Jonathan, Kaitlyn, and Abbigail). SSG Darryl Fletcher, 39 of Trenton, NJ (Army) – Wounded Warrior SGT Adam Keys, 28 of Allentown, PA (Army) - Wounded WarriorAdam was accompanied by his mother, Julie Keys. SSG John Eubanks, 27 of Atlanta, GA (USMC) - Wounded Warrior John was accompanied by his father, Tommy Eubanks. CAPT Tommy Elliott, 34 of St. Claire, IL (USMC) - Wounded WarriorTommy was accompanied by his wife and son, Deborah and Oliver Elliot. CPL Jessie Fletcher, 23 of Syracuse/Watertown, NY (USMC) - Wounded WarriorJessie was accompanied by his fiancĂ©, Emily Ball. LCPL Nathan Jakubisin, 23 of Pleasant City, OH (USMC) - Wounded WarriorNathan was accompanied by his wife, Marli Jakubisin. MSgt Melissa Reich, 42 of Park Falls, WI (Air Force) - Wounded WarriorMelissa was accompanied by her friend, Lacey Smith. SGT Robert C. Easley, 26 of Chambersburg, PA (Army) - Wounded WarriorRobert accompanied by his wife (Megan Easley), father (Robert Easley), mother-in-law (Lillian Mountain), and father-in-law (Dennis Mountain).

On Wednesday, President Obama will perform the traditional pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey.

President Obama will pardon the National Thanksgiving Turkey(s) in a ceremony in the Rose Garden.  The President will celebrate the 65th anniversary of the National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation, reflect upon the time-honored traditions of Thanksgiving, and wish American families a warm, safe, and healthy holiday. 

The President will pardon Cobbler and his alternate Gobbler, both 19-week old, 40-pound turkeys. The names of the turkeys were chosen from submissions from elementary schools in Rockingham County, Virginia, where the turkeys were raised.  Many of the submissions came from schools in agriculture-producing areas, where students have the chance to learn about the importance of agriculture to the world food supply and to our local economies.  This year, for the first time ever, the American public decided which of the two turkeys – Cobbler or Gobbler – would become the 2012 National Thanksgiving Turkey by casting a vote via the White House Facebook page.

The 2012 National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate were raised on the farm of Craig and Nancy Miller in Rockingham County, Virginia. After the pardoning, the National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate will be driven to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens. 

The National Thanksgiving Turkey will be on display for visitors during “Christmas at Mount Vernon,” a special program through January 6th. 

After the holidays, the turkeys will live in a custom-made enclosure at Mount Vernon’s nationally recognized livestock facility.   

More White House Holiday Tradition
Also, this week, in the tradition of the upcoming Christmas holiday, First Lady Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia will receive the White House Christmas tree on Friday, after Thanksgiving.

This year's tree comes from Peak Farms in Ashe County, North Carolina – the farm of 2012 National Christmas Tree Association Grand Champion winners Rusty and Beau Estes.  This year’s official tree is a 19-foot Fraser Fir from Jefferson, North Carolina that was selected in early October and harvested this month.  It will be displayed throughout the holiday season in the Blue Room.  Members of the National Christmas Tree Association have presented the official White House Christmas Tree for display in the Blue Room each year since 1966.

See last year's White House Christmas Tree arrival ceremony here.

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