When Joe Biden was running for president and later vice president in 2008, one of the most hotly debated issues on the campaign trail was the United States’ presence and Iraq. And for Biden, who lost the Democratic nomination but went on to run successfully as Barack Obama’s running mate, the issue was deeply personal.
Biden’s son Beau, who died May 30 at the age of 46 of brain cancer, was a captain in the Army National Guard at the time. And despite serving as Delaware’s attorney general, he was getting ready to deploy to Iraq.
Beau’s deployment was a frequent topic of conversation on the campaign trail, with Joe — then a U.S. Senator from Delaware — telling a crowd at the Iowa State Fair in 2007 that he didn’t want his son going, but also didn’t want his grandchildren to have to deploy 15 years later.
Beau Biden, who joined the National Guard in 2003 and served in the 261st Signal Brigade, deployed to Iraq in October 2008, the day after his dad squared off against Sarah Palin in the vice presidential debate. Joe Biden spoke at the brigade’s deployment ceremony, and relayed to the crowd a piece of advice from Beau.
“Keep it short, Dad,” Beau told his dad, according to a report on the ceremony in the Los Angeles Times. “We’re in formation.”
The elder Biden proceeded to heap praise on the unit, according to the Times.
Never before has a Delaware guard unit been deployed that is better qualified,” Sen. Biden said. “You are the best demonstration of both our nation’s greatness and . . . our people’s goodness.
Beau Biden was stationed in Iraq for a year before returning to Delaware. He twice gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention when his dad was being nominated for vice president: Before his deployment in 2008 and after he had returned in 2012.
Biden was elected attorney general in 2006 when his dad was the state’s senior U.S. Senator. After serving in Iraq, he won his 2010 re-election bid in a landslide, crushing Republican Doug Campbell by 58 percentage points and earning the highest percentage of the vote (78.9 percent) of any candidate for statewide office in Delaware.
He was considering a 2016 run for governor.
Beau’s death marks another tragedy for the Biden family. Joe Biden’s firth wife, Neilia, and the couple’s 13-month-old daughter, Naomi, were killed in a car accident in December 1972, months before Beau’s fourth birthday. Beau and his brother, Hunter, survived the crash, and Joe later took his Senate oath of office from Beau’s hospital bed.
— Blake Hounshell (@blakehounshell) May 31, 2015