The stop, which was not on Dr Biden’s official schedule, came after some troops who were guarding the Capitol building had been forced to take their breaks in an underground parking garage. The order to move the soldiers from the main building to the garage prompted outrage from both Democrats and Republicans.
“I just wanted to come today to say thank you to all of you for keeping me and my family safe. I know that you left your home states,” she said on Friday afternoon when addressing troops stationed outside the US Capitol.
She went on to mention how the Biden Family was a “National Guard family” because their late son, Beau, served for the branch.
“Our son Beau was Delaware Army National Guard,” she continued. “He served for a year in Iraq from 2008 to 2009. So I’m a National Guard mom and when I saw … all that you’ve done and you left your home states and you’ve come here … I just wanted to say thanks from President Biden and my entire family.”
While she addressed the troops, Dr Biden was holding a basket of chocolate chip cookies, which were baked as a “small thank you” to the members who’ve worked to protect Washington DC in recent weeks.
“The White House baked you some chocolate chip cookies,” Dr Biden said. “I can’t say that I’ve baked them all myself,” she added with a laugh.
“So I wanted to give you each a cookie just as a small thank you for your service and your families’ service … I truly appreciate all that you do. The National Guard always holds a special place in the hearts of all the Bidens. So thank you,” her speech concluded.
The visit came after thousands of National Guardsmen were told to abruptly vacate the US Capitol on Thursday and forced to rest in a nearby parking garage. The group had no internet service, just one working outlet, and one bathroom with two stalls for 5,000 troops.
Backlash ensued after pictures and reports circulated of the troop members in the unheated parking garage, given they were in Washington DC to protect the public following the riots that took place two weeks prior. In total, about 20,000 troops were based in Washington DC for Inauguration Day.
President Joe Biden called the chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Daniel R. Hokanson, on Friday to apologise for the situation that occurred at the parking garage. He also asked the general how he could fix the situation.
The reasons for why troops were moved and who ordered their removal remain unknown, but it has sparked criticism from several state governors and members of Congress.
Governors from Florida, Montana, New Hampshire, and Texas have all ordered for their National Guard troops to return to their states following the incident.
“They did an outstanding job serving our nation’s capital in a time of strife and should be graciously praised, not subject to substandard conditions,” New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, a Republican, wrote on Twitter on Friday morning. Florida Governor Ron De Santi, a Republican, went as far as to say the troops weren’t “Nancy Pelosi’s servants” in his critique of the incident.
Captain Edwin Nieves Jr, the spokesman for the Washington DC National Guard, said on Friday that the troops were ordered to temporarily vacate the US Capitol to an adjoining building by the Capitol Police. This was asked of them due to the “increased foot traffic” at the time, he said.
But Yogananda Pittman, the acting Capitol Police chief, said National Guard troops were only asked to leave the US Capitol during the ceremony on Inauguration Day.
The National Guard has already begun to pull troops from the nation’s capital following the inaugural events, but about 7,000 members were anticipated to remain in Washington DC until the end of January.