First lady Jill Biden visits Wright-Patt base, plus school, military families

Biden talks about her family’s military roots, asks people what’s going right and wrong here so she can ‘take it back to Joe.’

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — First lady Jill Biden visited Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on Wednesday, emphasizing the importance of supporting the military as she visited with service members and their families, touring one of the nation’s most important Air Force bases.

“I wanted to come talk to all of you today to hear about your experiences,” Biden told a group of parents, in uniform and civilian attire, at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. “The Bidens are a military family. My dad served in World War II. And my son was Army. He served in Iraq.”

The first lady often meets with military families when she travels, emphasizing ways to boost employment, child care and resources for such families.

“I’m a military mom,” she said at Beverly Gardens Elementary School in Riverside, which serves Air Force families stationed at Wright-Patterson. “I’m a military daughter. And a military grandma.”

The first lady also met with flight nurses and specialists at the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine on the base’s Area B, watching a mock in-air intensive care unit demonstration.

Medics explained to Biden the challenges of providing ICU-level care in the back of an Air Force C-130 under trying conditions.

“They can talk, they can breathe, they can bleed,” one medic told Biden, explaining a lifelike mannequin on a gurney at the School of Aerospace Medicine.

Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle, commander of Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) — of which the school is a part — stood with reporters as she snapped photos of Biden on the C-130.

Ohio’s Purple Star schools program is meant to help schools respond to the educational and emotional challenges of children in military families, many of whom have frequent deployments, causing their children to move from state to state and school to school.

At Beverly Gardens, Biden met with Pete LuPiba, commissioner of the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission, who founded the Purple Star program, as well Chad Wyen, superintendent of Mad River Local Schools.

She also helped second-grade students with math problems.

In the Dayton area, with thousands of families connected to Wright-Patterson, numerous schools have earned the Purple Star designation.

To attain Purple Star status, schools must have a trained staff liaison who works between military students and families, and the teachers who serve them. They must also have a dedicated web page featuring resources, and must complete one other step, which can include wider staff training or a military recognition event.

“We want to make sure the military and their families thrive,” the first lady said at the museum. “One of the things that really is of ultimate importance to my husband is that the military gets what the military needs, what the families need.”

“My job as the first lady is travel around the country and hear from our military, hear what’s going right and hear what’s going wrong and take it back to Joe,” she said. “So when he’s doing things like figuring out the budget, he knows that the military needs child care. I’ve heard that all across the nation.”

At Wright Patterson, Congress has approved funding for a pair of new child development centers.

Most of Biden’s interaction with families at the museum and some of her interactions at the school Wednesday were closed to the media.

Biden’s visit was part of her “Joining Forces” initiative ahead of April, which is designated the “month of the military child.” The Joining Forces mission is meant to support those who also serve, including military and veteran families, caregivers and survivors.

President Joe Biden’s son, Beau Biden, was a U.S. Army National Guard officer and attorney. He died of glioblastoma in 2015 at age 46.

With some 35,000 military and civilian employees, Wright-Patterson is the largest single-site employer in Ohio. Missions concerned with equipping and sustaining the Air Force are headquartered here, including Air Force Materiel Command, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Air Force Research Laboratory and many others.

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