NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The HM-15 Hangar at Naval Station Norfolk was the perfect place for a Friendsgiving dinner. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden welcomed around 400 people, including service members and their families, at the event.

On Nov. 19, the president and first lady traveled to Norfolk to host an event to honor those in the military and their families. The president gave some remarks before putting on an apron and becoming the “server in chief” as he distributed plates among those in attendance.

Biden began his opening remarks reminding those gathered that they were an essential part of the country. 

“Believe it or not — and this is not hyperbole — you are the spine, the backbone of the nation,” Biden said. “… true obligation we have is to prepare those we send into harm’s way. We need to care for their families when they come home, and make sure no one is forgotten.” 

Biden said the the U.S. was the greatest military in the world. Despite being a small percentage of the whole U.S. population, service members protect the country.

“1% — that’s all that protects the 99% of us,” Biden said. “1% … Everywhere I go in my career, no one misunderstands that we have the finest military in the world.” 

The president made an impact on some of those gathered, including Cenitha Mayes’ family. Cenitha’s husband is currently serving on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, which is currently stationed in the middle east following conflict in the Israel-Hamas war.  

“[Biden] made us feel appreciated,” Cenitha said. “We do stay behind, and we do feel left out, and forgotten about. This was really nice.” 

Before the Friendsgiving meal, Biden interacted with some of the children near the front, including a 6-year-old girl and 4-year-old boy.

“How old are you, 17?” Biden asked the girl. “Six! And how old are you back there, 15? Four! You are a pretty big guy. I hope you are nice to your sister. You’ll need her one day. I needed mine.” 

English Celebrity Chef Robert Irvine put the Apron on the “Commander in Serving,” and the president got to work. Biden spent some time talking to each person as he served them dishes.  

“With the president serving us our plates, that meant a lot to us, we really appreciated it showing us that love and care,” Cenitha said.

During the event, the president and first lady took photos and videos with families and children. Cenitha’s daughter, Akielah, said it was important to her that he was taking time to care about all the people, and not just the “higher people.”

Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander was on hand to represent the city of Norfolk, and said that the families left behind also serve their country.

“They serve along with their service member,” Alexander said. “Their loved ones are away, and they are serving right along with their loved ones.” 

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