Bidens serve meals to military families at ‘Friendsgiving’ event in Norfolk

By Steve Holland

NAVAL STATION NORFOLK, Virginia (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden donned aprons and served Thanksgiving dinners to military personnel and their families on Sunday at an early holiday meal dubbed “Friendsgiving.”

The event took place in a flag-bedecked hangar at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Virginia.

The Bidens participation in the gathering for friends known as “Friendsgiving” kicked off the week ahead of the U.S. Thanksgiving Day holiday on Thursday. Biden served up portions of mashed potatoes and Jill Biden spooned out sweet potato casserole as the diners passed in front of them.

The Friendsgiving event included service members and military families associated with the Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Gerald R. Ford aircraft carriers.

Both vessels are deployed in the eastern Mediterranean in response to tensions from the Israel-Hamas conflict.

“You literally are the spine, the sinew, the backbone of this operation,” Biden said. Of the family members of those deployed abroad, he added: “You family members are the heart of this operation.”

Biden will conduct the traditional pardoning of the National Thanksgiving Turkey on Monday, and then leave on Tuesday for the Atlantic island of Nantucket to spend the Thursday holiday there with his family.

He celebrates his 81st birthday on Monday.

While in Norfolk, the Bidens kicked off an advance screening with service members and their families of “Wonka,” a new musical fantasy film focusing on a young Willy Wonka.

The Norfolk event was part of the White House’s Joining Forces Initiative, co-hosted by the United Service Organizations (USO) and Robert Irvine Foundation.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Franklin Paul and Diane Craft)