Jill Biden arrives in Romania, serves meals to US troops

First lady Jill Biden meets U.S. troops during a visit to the Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania
Associated Press/Susan Walsh
First lady Jill Biden meets U.S. troops during a visit to the Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania

First lady Jill Biden arrived in Romania on Friday to start her four-day trip across Eastern Europe, which will include a visit with Ukrainian refugees amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The first lady’s plane touched down at Mihail Kogalniceanu International Airport in southeastern Romania around 5:02 p.m. local time. She was greeted by military officials before going to Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, where she served food to U.S. troops, according to reporters traveling with the first lady.

Biden entered the dining area at the base holding two bottles of ketchup after her office heard the base was running low on the condiment. Her team brought roughly five gallons on the plane to leave at the base.

She served macaroni and cheese and potatoes to service members and greeted some at various tables in the dining area. She spoke to one who was from Pennsylvania and attended the University of Delaware, where the Bidens are alums.

“I’m a Blue Hen, too! So is my husband,” she said.

The first lady also discussed with troops the hardship that deployments have on families, referencing her own experience during her late son Beau Biden’s deployment. Since Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, the total number of personnel at the base has roughly tripled in size to about 2,700, military leadership on site told reporters.

Biden filmed a virtual story-time at the base as part of her Joining Forces initiative to support military families in partnership with United Through Reading,  an organization that connects military families with deployed service members through video recordings and virtual book readings. 

She read “Night Catch” with Staff Sgt. Sharon Rogers for Rogers’ son.

“Thank you for your service because when your mom serves, you serve too,” Biden said, directing comments to Rogers’ son.

Before leaving for Bucharest, the first lady greeted members of the Delaware National Guard and handed out her new challenge coin for the first time at the airport.

The challenge coin features the USS Delaware and the USS Giffords, both of which she is a sponsor of; the state flower of Delaware; and 261st, which was Beau Biden’s unit number in the Delaware Army National Guard. On the back, the coin features the full prayer that the first lady would say when Beau was deployed to Iraq. 

Biden next plans to travel to Bucharest and on Saturday will meet with members of the government of Romania, U.S. Embassy staff, humanitarian aid workers and educators who are helping teach displaced Ukrainian children.

The first lady will visit Slovakia’s border with Ukraine on Sunday to mark Mother’s Day. Her meeting with refugees mirrors President Biden’s visit with Ukrainian refugees in Poland in March and will add to a long history of first ladies meeting with those forced to flee during times of war and international crises.

Earlier on Sunday, she will visit a city-run refugee center and a school, where she will tour and learn about services for Ukrainian refugees and hear from those refugees, and visit a public school in Kosice that is hosting Ukrainian refugee students.

On Monday, she is slated to meet with President of Slovakia Zuzana Caputova at the Presidential Palace in Bratislava before returning to the U.S.

Updated: 12:26 p.m.

Tags First Lady Jill Biden Russia-Ukraine war russian invasion of ukraine Ukrainian refugees Ukrainian refugees

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