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First lady Jill Biden visits Navy holiday party in Groton

Jill Biden
Bryan Woolston
AP Photo
First lady Jill Biden meets with families of sailors serving aboard the USS Delaware at the U.S. Submarine Veterans Club in Groton, Connecticut, on Dec. 9, 2021.

Family members of the USS Delaware crew gathered Thursday evening to celebrate the holiday season with crafts, music and photo ops with Santa Claus. And during the party, another visitor made a stop at each table — first lady Jill Biden.

Biden met families at the U.S. Submarine Veterans Club in Groton to show her support as many spend the holidays without their loved ones.

“I honor your service …” Biden said. “I understand what it feels like for all the military families here who have someone who is deployed, especially at the holidays. My son was in the Army National Guard. I saw that empty chair at the table whether it was Thanksgiving or Christmas or birthdays.”

But despite how hard it is, Biden reminded families that there is a community behind them, and a strong one at that.

The USS Delaware was launched in 2018, and Acacia Lazos’ husband has been with the ship since then.

“He’s been gone pretty much since we moved here. He’s been in and out,” said Lazos, who attended the party with her toddler and 6-month-old twins. “I just get used to it, but it’s definitely hard especially when you can tell your kids miss their dad.”

But despite the distance between her and her husband at the moment, Lazos said she’s thankful for events like this that remind her she’s part of something bigger.

“And I’m here to celebrate Christmas with the first lady — that’s pretty cool!” she added.

Elise Alvarado shared similar excitement. Her husband has been in the Navy for 13 years and joined the Delaware this past May.

Jill Biden.jpg
Allison Minto / Connecticut Public
Connecticut Public
Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro and first lady Jill Biden get the attention of 19-month-old Sarai Alvarado with her mother, Elise, as they visit with families of sailors serving aboard the USS Delaware at the U.S. Submarine Veterans Club in Groton, Connecticut.

“Having him join this boat has been so special because it’s not only sponsored by Jill Biden, but it’s brought us back home,” said the Connecticut native, who’s looking forward to being with family during the holidays.

The event was sponsored by United Through Reading, a nonprofit that connects families separated by deployment or military assignments through story time.

Biden was joined by Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro and Connecticut officials. This is her second visit to the state since the beginning of the year.

Camila Vallejo is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. She is a bilingual reporter based out of Fairfield County and welcomes all story ideas at cvallejo@ctpublic.org.

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