The expletives were flying during a ceremony for wounded warriors at the vice president's residence on Memorial Day.
And while the strong language wasn't directed at anyone in particular, the event featured pointed comments—and some poignant comments—about veterans and the failures of the Obama administration to make good on the country's promises to them.
Shortly after 8:00 a.m. Monday, a group of more than 200 bicycle riders departed the Sheraton National Hotel in Arlington, Virginia for the short ride to the Naval Observatory in Northwest Washington. The riders were in town to kick off the 7th Memorial Challenge, a week-long bike ride for wounded veterans that begins outside of Washington, D.C. and ends in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
The group included a wide range of cyclists—from cycling legend Wayne Stetina to novice riders, on a bicycle for the first time since receiving a prosthetic limb. Ride 2 Recovery, the organization that sponsors this ride and many others across the country, provides the veterans with bicycles and helps them customize the their equipment to accommodate their specific injuries. The ride Monday included two triple-amputees—missing all or parts of two legs and one arm. They were among a group of cyclists who rode hand-cycles, recumbent bikes in which the pedals, located in front of the rider, are turned by hand.
On longer rides, the large group breaks up into four, smaller sub-groups based on cycling experience and ability. But for the trip to the vice president's residence they rode together, as one large unit, snaking throughout northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., with a police escort. The trip to Biden's took them by the Pentagon, down 9/11 Heroes Highway, across the Potomac toward the Lincoln Memorial, on past the Kennedy Center onto Rock Creek Parkway and, eventually, up Embassy Row, a long hill on Massachusetts Avenue that ends at the Naval Observatory.
After a brief wait while the Secret Service checked IDs, the cyclists were ushered onto the grounds of the Naval Observatory and many of them, having taken seriously the heavy emphasis on proper hydration, headed immediately inside for a bathroom break. The group posed for pictures—both formal photos and selfies with the vice president—and then the speeches began.
John Wordin, president of Ride 2 Recovery, a veteran's advocacy group that uses cycling to advance the mental and physical rehabilitation of wounded warriors, introduced Vice President Joe Biden using some salty language. Standing at a podium in front of a portico on the side of the residence, Wordin noted that Biden is "famous for his one-liners" and reminded those gathered of the vice president's comments at the Obamacare bill-signing ceremony—that the moment was a "big f---ing deal."
Ride 2 Recovery, Wordin claimed, is "a big f---ing deal" in the lives of wounded warriors. (He did not clean it up). When Wordin mentioned the prospect of a Biden presidency, the vice president smiled broadly and made the sign of the cross.
When Wordin joked that Biden might be acting president because of the president's trip to Afghanistan, he used the hypothetical to make a sharp critique of Barack Obama. Biden, he said, will elevate groups like Ride 2 Recovery to help the military and the VA understand veterans and their concerns. Most important, Wordin said, Biden will not make excuses or fail to deliver on promises. "He will not say when things go wrong, he's mad as hell or madder than hell, and then tell you you have to wait. He's going to take care of it because Joe is a man of action."
When Biden spoke, he offered a short list of things the Obama administration had done for veterans, but he also echoed Wordin's complaint that words aren't enough. “This is a long-term commitment this nation has to make, so it seems to me on this day we as Americans have to recommit ourselves not just with words but with deeds.”
Biden said the United States has a "sacred obligation" to its veterans and, in a characteristically straightforward manner, acknowledged that the administration is failing to meet that obligation. "We're behind right now," Biden said. "The VA is having problems. And we got to get to the bottom of it."