Pausing for a photo with a group of airmen, a couple of name tags caught President Joe Biden’s eye.
“He said, ‘you have the same last name’,” said Senior Airman Marie Gatopoulos. And indeed she and husband Alexander do.
The high school sweethearts from New Jersey enlisted together, got married about a year ago at his station in South Carolina and recently were posted to Langley Air Force Base. They’re expecting their first child this fall.
Family was on President Biden’s and First Lady Jill Biden’s minds a lot during their Memorial Day weekend stop at Langley, visiting with more that 100 airmen and soldiers at the 27th Fighter Squadron hangar. Watch his speech below:
The president was accompanied by three of the state’s more prominent Democrats – Gov. Ralph Northam, U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria and U.S. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott. He came to Hampton after an event in Alexandria with Northam, at which he praised the state’s progress in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a soft voice, Biden talked about his son Beau, who served with a Delaware National Guard unit in Iraq, where he was awarded a Bronze Star. Beau Biden died of cancer in 2015.
“He spent a year in Iraq and it was the greatest honor of his life,” Biden said of his son — but added that his son wouldn’t talk about it or wear his medal.
“Like a lot of you, you do your duty and you don’t expect anything except a little respect but you deserve so much more, so much more,” Biden said.
“My message to you is quite simple: thank you, thank you. Thank you for choosing selfless service to your country,” he said, and then, quoting the line that “they also serve who only stand and wait,” stressed that military families serve the nation, too.
Biden said many of the service men and women he had met in his trips to the Iraq and Afghanistan while vice president had been on their fourth of fifth deployment.
“In no other war have you gone in, served, got back up again, and gone in again, and again and again,” he said. “You’re incredible, incredible.”
He said supporting military families is a top priority, one that’s been a focus for his wife, dating back to her collaboration with Michelle Obama to support military spouses and children.
“I promise you this, all the Gold Star families across the country,” he said. “We will never, ever, ever forget.”
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