ABC News’ Matt Jaffe Reports: Fresh off Thursday’s vice-presidential debate in St. Louis, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., made a midnight return to his home state to see off his son and the rest of the 261st Signal Brigade Friday morning as the troops get set to deploy to Iraq.
Biden has regularly spoken at these National Guard deployment ceremonies since 9-11, but this time, Biden paused when he stepped up to the podium, staring out at the troops standing in formation straight in front of him, this time a unit clad in fatigues that included his eldest son, Beau, Delaware’s state attorney general and captain in the Guard.
"I have come here many times before as a Delawarean, as a United States senator," Biden said on the mall in front of the state capital in Dover. "But today I come as you prepare to deploy as a father, a father who got some sage advice from his son this morning: ‘Dad, keep it short, we’re in formation.’ I always listen to my general."
And keep it short the senator did, leaving him more time to spend with his son before Beau leaves later this weekend for training in Ft. Bliss, Texas, and then onto Iraq.
"So let me simply say, like all of the family members that are here today gathered on this green, my heart is full of love and pride," Biden continued. "My wife Jill and I and our whole family, like every family member here, have hearts full of love and pride. We take comfort in the knowledge that you are the best trained, best prepared group of citizen soldiers our country and this state has ever sent into harm’s way."
Among the family members in the audience at the sun-drenched ceremony were Biden’s wife Jill; his son Hunter and daughter-in-law Kathleen and their three children; his daughter Ashley; and Beau’s wife Hallie and their two children Natalie and Hunter. Beau Biden’s in-laws, Ron and Joan Olivere, were also in attendance.
"You are the best demonstration of both our nation’s greatness and, equally as importantly, our people’s goodness," Biden told the 115 troops. "As you serve, and look out for your brothers and sisters in arms, your families here at home, I promise you, we’ll look out for one another."
And with that, Biden wrapped up his brief remarks.
"So let me simply say thank you," the senator concluded. "Thank you for answering the call of your country. Thank you for doing what brave women and men have always done in uniform and always do. So stand strong, stand together, serve honorably. Come home to your families that love you. May God bless you and may He protect you."
The senator then saluted the troops and returned to his seat on stage.
Following the speeches of Biden and other elected officials such as Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner and Sen. Tom Carper, the Pipes and Drums of the Delaware Valley band played as Biden descended the stage to meet up with his family gathered in the audience, bagpipes blasting as the troops and their families congregated on the green.