VP Biden Welcomes Home Son's National Guard Brigade, Thanks Troops for Service

Capt. Beau Biden returns from a year-long deployment to Iraq.

September 29, 2009, 6:27 PM

Sept. 30, 2009— -- Last October, in the thick of the presidential campaign, Sen. Joe Biden delivered emotional remarks at a deployment ceremony for the Delaware National Guard.

Biden's presence there was neither surprising nor unusual. He attended many similar ceremonies in Delaware in his more than three decades of public service.

But the event was emotional for the vice presidential candidate because deploying to Iraq with the Delaware Army National Guard's 261st Signal Brigade was his oldest son, Beau, a military lawyer and the state's attorney general.

Biden avoided politics that day and said that he spoke as a father who got "sage advice" from his son.

"I have come here many times before as a Delawarean, as a United States senator," Biden said to the 115 troops on the mall in front of the state capitol 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," he added.

Today, Biden marked the conclusion of his son's deployment overseas when he spoke at the homecoming ceremony for the 261st Signal Brigade at the state capitol.

"I can speak in behalf of the National Guard family assembled here when I say, as a Delawarean, I stand here steeped in pride; as an American, I am awed by the quality and the significance of your service; and as a parent, as a father, I can't tell you the feeling I have in welcoming home a son," the vice president said.

Beau Biden, a captain in the 261st Signal Brigade, has been in Iraq for nearly a year working as a military lawyer. He came back briefly from Iraq and took an assignment at the Pentagon in order to see his father's swearing-in as vice president in January.

The vice president saw his son while on a short visit to Iraq earlier this month and on two other visits there this year. Biden joked that his trips were not just about seeing this unit from his home state and his son.

"I've found myself feeling somewhat guilty going back to Iraq as often as I did. I want you to know, for the press here, I was not doing it just to go see this unit. The president asked me to oversee Iraqi policy once we were elected," Biden said.

On a more serious note, Biden said he "felt sort of guilty" that he was able to see his son and his unit while they were serving.

"I felt sort of guilty that you weren't getting to see what I got to see. I got to see our beloved son three times. You were home," he said. "I got to see the respect that was afforded your sons and daughters, your husbands and wives in a way that if you got to see it, it would only expand the pride you already feel."

Lt. Col. Len Gratteri, public information officer for the Delaware National Guard, had said the homecoming ceremony would be "special" because it marked the first time a vice president has attended such an event in the state.

Gratteri said more than 1,500 people were expected to attend the ceremony.

It was not planned as a policy address from the vice president, an administration official said.

"He has two roles -- as vice president and as a father. In his capacity as vice president, he's proud and appreciates the service that these returning soldiers gave their country," an official said. "And as a father, he's eminently proud and relieved like every father, mother, sister, brother, husband, wife" with a loved one serving overseas.

Both Biden and his wife Jill have spoken publicly about what it means to have a loved one overseas and both have said they share a connection with other military families across the nation.

What's Next for Beau Biden?

"I look across the room and though I have only met a few of you, I feel as though we are family," Jill Biden said at a recent awards ceremony honoring the employers of National Guard and reservists. "We share the same concerns, the anxieties, the sense of duty, and the pride that comes along with being a military family."

As Beau Biden returns from his year-long deployment, he will return to his previous job as attorney general.

The acting attorney general, Richard Gebelien, who stood in for Biden while he was in Iraq, recently announced that he would step down at the end of this month.

Beau Biden's office could not confirm when he would return to his role as attorney general. He is still on active duty with the National Guard.

Now that he is back in Delaware, cue the speculation about what's in store for Beau Biden's political future.

Delaware will hold an election next year to fill the remaining four years of Joe Biden's Senate term, his seventh, which he won while on the Obama ticket last November.

Biden was sworn into his Senate seat but stepped down before taking another oath of office, as vice president. Then-Gov. Ruth Ann Minner appointed former Biden aide Ted Kaufman to the job, which most took as a sign that the Bidens wanted to keep the seat warm until Beau could step in.

All eyes in Delaware will be on Republican Rep. Michael Castle, a former governor and nine-term congressman, who could make a run for the Biden seat and set up a showdown with Beau Biden.

If Castle does throw his hat into the ring, political observers believe he would be the favorite over Biden, and polls from earlier this year show the Republican with a solid lead. But it is too soon to discount what impact the backing of the White House could have on a potential Biden candidacy and fundraising operation.

Biden: Beau Would Make a Great Senator

One Republican official in Washington called the Delaware Senate picture "unclear at the moment" and said much will hinge on whether Castle decides to run. Castle so far has been mum on any future plans.

Another option for Biden would be to skip next year's Senate election, run for re-election as attorney general and wait for a seat to open up down the road.

The vice president has said Beau would "make a great senator."

He also said he offered his son some political advice this summer:

"Whatever you decide to do, make sure there is something you are willing to lose over," Biden recounted saying in an interview with NBC. "Don't just do it ... because it's the next step. If you conclude that you care deeply about something, and you're willing to lose over it in a campaign, then do it."

ABC News' Matt Jaffe contributed to this report.

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