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Biden addresses his son's deployment ceremony

  • Story Highlights
  • Joe Biden speaks at his son's deployment ceremony in Delaware
  • Beau Biden is a National Guard captain and Delaware's AG
  • Biden tells the crowd: "My heart is full of love and pride"
  • Sarah Palin's son, Track, was deployed to Iraq on September 11
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DOVER, Delaware (CNN) -- It was a very public goodbye for Joe Biden on Friday as the Delaware senator addressed the deployment ceremony of his son's National Guard unit as they prepare to leave for a tour of duty in Iraq.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden addresses the deployment ceremony Friday.

Following Thursday night's debate with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in St. Louis, Missouri, Biden flew back to Delaware to spend the day with his 39-year-old son before his deployment to Iraq.

Beau Biden -- a captain in the National Guard and Delaware's attorney general -- will be a trial counselor in the 261st Signal Brigade, a unit that specializes in providing communications for the military in Iraq.

"I've come here many times before as a Delawarean, as a United States senator," he told a crowd in Dover. "But today I come, as you prepare to deploy, as a father -- a father who had some sage advice from his son this morning: 'Dad, keep it short, we're in formation.' "

"My heart is full of love and pride. ... You are the best demonstration of both our nation's greatness and ... our people's goodness," he added. Video Watch more of Biden's comments »

Biden joined the rest of Delaware's congressional delegation and the state's Gov. Ruth Ann Minner in speaking to the 110 members of the unit.

"Let me simply say, thank you, thank you for answering the call of your country. ... So stay strong, stand together, serve honorably ... may God bless you and may he protect you," Biden added, later saluting the crowd.

Beau Biden doesn't ship out right away. Instead, he heads to Fort Bliss, Texas, this weekend, where his National Guard unit completes assigned tasks and receives additional training specific to the conditions in Iraq. Then, in six to eight weeks, they ship out to Iraq.

Despite increased interest and security because Biden is now a vice presidential nominee, the public affairs officer for the unit had insisted the ceremony would be no different, and not political.

Lt. Col. Len Grattieri said Wednesday that the last time Biden -- who has often spoken at deployment ceremonies -- addressed a departing unit was 18 months ago, and that he usually roots his remarks in foreign policy, offering his perspective on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Grattieri couldn't say where Beau Biden will be based, but his role will be that of a prosecutor enforcing the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He added that positions aren't clearly defined, and the unit will do whatever the Army needs it to.

In the past week, Biden had been trying to balance debate prep with family time. On Tuesday afternoon, he took a break and went out to lunch with Beau, Beau's wife, Hallie, and the couple's young daughter.

Aides say it's been a tough week for Biden, with Beau's departure weighing on him. Biden said in an interview Tuesday that he is proud of his son, but wishes he weren't going.

Palin, along with Biden, brought up their respective sons' deployment to Iraq during the debate.

Palin's son Track, 19, an infantry soldier, was deployed to Iraq with his Army unit September 11. Palin spoke at her eldest son's deployment ceremony in Alaska, which honored the 4,000 Alaska-based troops to be deployed from Fort Wainwright to Iraq in the coming weeks.

Track Palin, who was standing in formation among members of the 1st Stryker Brigade's 25th Infantry Division at Fort Wainwright, went unmentioned by the governor in her brief remarks. Palin had agreed to speak at the deployment ceremony several months ago, before she was tapped as Sen. John McCain's running mate.

Though the speech wasn't a political event -- media credentials were issued by the military base -- that didn't stop dozens of national reporters and photographers from descending on the military base in Fairbanks, home to nearly 12,000 soldiers and their families.

"As you depart today," Palin told the infantrymen, "don't mind us -- your parents, your friends, your family -- if we allow for a few tears, or if we hold you just a little close once more before you're gone. Because were going to miss you. We can't help it. We are going to miss you."

Palin said victory in Iraq is "within sight."

"You and others like you will be there to see the mission through," she said. "You will be there to win. You will see victory.

Track Palin signed up to join the Army on September 11, 2007. During his 12-month deployment, his unit will protect reconstruction teams that are rebuilding the country, said Maj. Chris Hyde, the public affairs officer for the brigade.

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Hyde, who called Track Palin "a low-profile individual," said he had not heard any security concerns about having the son of a prominent political figure in the brigade.

"The decision to put him in that role was made before Gov. Palin was picked by McCain," he said. "If anything comes down from headquarters, we will comply, but I wouldn't even want to speculate. I wouldn't say yes or no. That's just my opinion. We will do well with Track Palin whether he's there or he's not."

CNN's Peter Hamby, Ed Hornick and Alexander Marquardt contributed to this report.

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