Washington – Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, has turned her family’s own experience with military deployment into a picture book for children she hopes will add to the general public’s understanding and support of service members and their families.
“As I traveled around, and I’ve met with thousands of military families — and the Bidens are a military family — I realized not all Americans know the military experience,” she said in an American Forces Press Service interview on Monday. “They may not even know someone in the military, so they’re not focused on it. As a teacher and mom and nana, I thought, what better way to educate people than to write a book.”
“Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops,” published by Simon & Schuster, goes on sale on Tuesday. Through Biden’s words and illustrations by Raul Colon, it is the story of how the Bidens’ granddaughter, Natalie, handled the year-long deployment of her father, Joseph R. “Beau” Biden III, to Iraq in 2008.
In the book, 5-year-old Natalie tries to “be brave” for herself and her younger brother, Hunter, as the family marks important events such as holidays and birthdays without her father. Natalie gets some solace by being able to video chat with her dad, and also feels the pride of his work when neighbors, teachers, church leaders and others recognize his service.
Natalie Biden “was there every step of the way” in creating the book, providing art on the front and back pages, and speaking with her grandmother into a recorder about material for the book, Biden said.
“Don’t Forget” is a first book for Biden, a writing teacher, who has made it her mission during her time as the nation’s “second lady” to highlight the challenges of military families. She and First Lady Michelle Obama last year started the “Joining Forces” campaign to do just that, and rally all Americans to support the troops and their families however they can. The book compliments the Joining Forces efforts, Biden said.
“Hopefully, they’re not just reading the book, but it’s also creating an awareness so they can commit to an act of kindness on behalf of a military family,” she said.
Biden spoke to children in an elementary classroom last week, hoping to create the kind of understanding she and the first lady are trying to spread.
“If that sort of atmosphere were created in every classroom in America, Michelle and I will have achieved what we set out to do, by creating awareness in this young generation of Americans … so that they always are grateful for the sacrifices of military families,” she said.
Biden accepted no advance payment for the book and plans to donate all net author proceeds to a USO scholarship fund for the children of injured or fallen service members. Simon & Schuster also has pledged to donate to the same USO cause in honor of the book’s publication.
Biden is in New York this week to promote the book with live TV appearances scheduled on Tuesday on “Today,” “The View,” and “The Colbert Report.” She also will tape segments to air on “Weekend Today” and on CNN’s “Starting Point.” On June 7, she is scheduled to read from Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops at the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Asked if she will write more books about her experiences with military families, Biden said that for now, she hopes to hear from them.
“After I wrote it, one of the things I thought about is how neat it would be if kids emailed me with their own stories,” she said. “This is just my story, but if they tell their own stories … we could put that together as a follow up. It would be a nice way to continue the conversation.”