WASHINGTON, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- Ten wounded U.S. soldiers and their guests were welcomed into the Washington home of Vice President and Mrs. Joe Biden Monday for an early Thanksgiving feast.
Biden said he told them "this is your home" and that he and his wife were "honored and, quite frankly, flattered" to host the dinner.
"We're just so incredibly proud of you," he said. "We can never -- and I mean this sincerely -- never, ever repay you and your families for the sacrifices you've made."
All the soldiers at the dinner -- five from the Army, four Marines and one from the Air Force -- are being treated at the nearby Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. They were chosen because they had indicated they would likely not be able to leave the area to be with their families for the Thanksgiving holiday.
The residence was filled with the sounds of a crackling fire, a Navy harpist and a hungry infant -- Oliver Elliott, the 8-month-old son of Marine Capt. Tommy Elliott, 34, of St. Claire, Ill., and his wife, Deborah.
"Don't worry about the baby, it's OK," Biden told the guests.
The Bidens both noted their son Beau had served a yearlong deployment in Iraq.
"Our son Beau was deployed four years ago, so I know what it's like to have a loved one who's not at the table," Jill Biden said.
"As Joe said, I do believe in the power of prayer. And it was prayer that helped me get through that year. And I think probably for many of you it's prayer that'll help you get through these tough times."
The vice president offered the wounded veterans hope, saying "the most encouraging thing you're going to see in your lifetime, in the near term, is some incredible, incredible, incredible medical breakthroughs" in everything from prosthetics and treatment for severe brain injuries to help for post-traumatic stress.
Chaplain Stan Fornea said a prayer, and the assembled diners bowed their heads. He gave thanks for "the gifts of freedom, love, opportunity and second chances."
Their meal consisted of buttermilk brined roast turkey with lemon-parsley gravy, country bread dressing, parmesan mashed potatoes, graham cracker sweet potato gratin, roasted vegetable macaroni and cheese, snap beans with caramelized shallots and roasted mushrooms, fall harvest salad, apple-pecan cranberry relish, maple-ginger pumpkin pie, old-fashioned lattice apple pie and Thanksgiving pecan pie.
Besides the Elliots, those on the guest list were Army Spc. Ashley Durham, 26, Seneca, S.C., and his fiancee, Kayla Eisenhower; Army Staff Sgt. Brian Keaton, 38, New Albany, Ind., his wife, Kristen, and children Jonathan, Kaitlyn and Abbigail; Army Staff Sgt. Darryl Fletcher, 39 of Trenton, N.J.; Army Sgt. Adam Keys, 28 of Allentown, Pa., and his mother, Julie Keys; Marine Staff Sgt. John Eubanks, 27, of Atlanta, and his father, Tommy Eubanks; Marine Cpl. Jessie Fletcher, 23, of Syracuse/Watertown, N.Y., and his fiancee, Emily Ball; Marine Lance Cpl. Nathan Jakubisin, 23, of Pleasant City, Ohio, and his wife, Marli; Air Force Master Sgt. Melissa Reich, 42 of Park Falls, Wis., and her friend, Lacey Smith; and Army Sgt. Robert C. Easley, 26, of Chambersburg, Pa., and his wife, Megan, his father, Robert Easle, and in-laws Lillian and Dennis Mountain.
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