There was no fanfare and no press. The vice president had just landed at Andrews Air Force Base following a work trip to France. Instead of being driven to his residence, he came directly to Walter Reed so that he could have this meal.
Just him, Jill, and six young Americans whose lives had been irreparably changed by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The summer before, in August 2009, while leading a platoon of Army infantrymen near the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, I had stepped on a hidden IED. The resulting explosion tore off both of my legs above my knees, pulverized my left arm, broke my jaw and blew out both of my eardrums.
I had survived, but only by the slimmest of margins. I owed my life to the young Army medic who kept me alive there in the Afghan dirt, the courage of the Air Force pararescue crew who lifted my shattered body from the battlefield, and the skill of the many military doctors and nurses who had coaxed me back to health.
Over the course of the dinner, Vice President Biden, true to form, shared a few folksy stories from his trip. But for the most part, he spent the time listening. He listened as the two other soldiers, also recently wounded in combat, and I described what our experiences had been like fighting America's wars.
He listened as I explained that my greatest regret was not that I had been wounded, but that now I wouldn't be around to lead my soldiers through the next 11 months of their combat deployment.
When Biden did speak, he mostly asked questions. He asked us about our families. He asked us about the intricacies of our various wounds and the related recovery processes that we had been through and were still going through. It was obvious that he respected us as soldiers, but also that he cared about us as people.
Like many Americans, I was outraged at a story first reported in The Atlantic, and later confirmed by a Fox News reporter
, that President Donald Trump believes that soldiers who died and wounded soldiers like me are "suckers" and "losers."
and other news outlets
have reported that the President routinely made disparaging comments about US troops. President Trump, true to form, has reacted to The Atlantic's damning portrayal with bluster and over-the-top denials.
Let's remember that this is the same man, who in 2015, publicly questioned John McCain's status as a war hero, saying that he was only a war hero because he was captured and "I like people who weren't captured." The contrast with Biden couldn't be more stark.
A motto I commonly heard in the military is "deeds not words." The point of the saying is that talk is cheap, and real leaders prove their worth through their actions. President Trump can say whatever he likes, but his actions speak for themselves.
Like a shiny new building or a luxury golf course, President Trump seems to value the military primarily for its value to him as a political prop. Trump began his presidency by surrounding himself with a slew of active duty and retired generals -- men he repeatedly referred to as "my generals"
-- only to disparage them after they departed his administration.
Honoring our nation's heroes is at best an inconvenience for the President.