Biden Shares Tales of Loss With Families, Friends of Military Casualties
by David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post, May 25, 2012
Vice President Biden, speaking Friday to families and friends of military personnel killed in action, gave a powerful retelling of the death of his wife and daughter 40 years ago — saying he’d realized then how grief might push a person to suicide.
“For the first time in my life, I understood how someone could consciously decide to commit suicide,” Biden told a meeting of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors at a hotel in Crystal City. The group offers counseling to relatives and friends of military personnel who have died. It was holding its 18th annual military survivor seminar.
“Not because they were deranged, not because they were nuts,” Biden continued, according to a transcript. “Because they’d been to the top of the mountain, and they just knew in their heart they’d never get there again, that it was never going to get — never going to be that way ever again. That’s how an awful lot of you feel.”
In 1972, just after the Delaware Democrat was first elected to the Senate, his wife, Neilia, and his 13 month-old daughter, Naomi, were killed in a car crash. Biden’s two sons — Beau, then 3, and Hunter, 2 — were grievously injured but survived.
On Friday, Biden told the military families how low the crash had brought him. “I probably shouldn’t say this with the press here, but — no, it’s more important — you’re more important,” he said.
Biden had actually told the story before, on page 80 of his 2007 memoir, “Promises to Keep.”
“I began to understand how despair led people to just cash it in,” Biden wrote.
On Friday, that story was a powerful section of a speech that illustrated Biden’s particular style of rhetoric: frequently meandering, slightly pompous but movingly personal.
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Listen to Vice President Biden speak about understanding suicide ideation:
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