So the real story – the story I reported on today, was the Ride to Recovery. An incredible group of wounded veterans who are riding their bikes (some hand bikes) for 360 miles. These veterans are incredible. Some amputees, major physical ailments from their time in the military, and others overcoming an internal battle. This ride is about them – about their strength to overcome their physical and mental hurdles, bond and recover. It was an honor to meet them and tell their story. Here’s the piece:
More than 200 wounded veterans on bicycles are taking part in the 360-mile annual Ride 2 Recovery. The ride winds through historic parts of Virginia, ending in Virginia Beach.
The goal of the ride is honor those who paid the ultimate price as well as to help those incredible veterans who are still with us.
The second part of this story – the behind-the-scenes part that I didn’t report on television, is about Vice President Joe Biden. The Vice President and his wife, Jill, do SO MUCH for our veterans. This event is held at their home in DC, and it’s just one of the many things they do to honor these warriors. The veterans kicked off their ride at the Veep’s home, and they were sent off late this morning.
As a reporter, I am typically a fly-on-the-wall. Other than doing stand-ups or live reports, I stand out of the frame of my photographer so he can get the best shot and capture the story we are there to tell. Today, I was able to witness the Vice President from his front yard greet each of these veterans one by one, take selfies with them (see pics below), shake their hands and salute them.
After their send off, my photographer and I along with another news crew began to gather our things and head off the property. Most of the time, we do not get to meet the politician or celebrity, we are there as witnesses, not participants. But this time was different – as we were packing up to leave, Mr. Biden walks towards our crew. I think to myself: “We are about to meet the Vice President.” He gets closer, I stick out my hand and say, “Mr. Vice President, sir, my name is Nikki Burdine, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” I thought he would shake my hand and move on. He’s a busy man, after all.
What he did next floored me: Mr. Biden stood with us lowly TV news reporters and talked for a good 15 minutes. Then he says, “Hey, have you all ever been here before? Do you want a tour?” gesturing to his house. “Um, yes please!” We all said.
The Vice President took us through his home, giving us a private tour, telling stories about how Jill decorated this and picked this art out, etc. He took us out back to the garden his wife made. He tells us stories, while his press brigade run up to us whispering, “this is all off the record, OK?” Of course, we all say.
Mr. Biden then says, “Hey, do you all like dogs?” YES! Come on, I’ll introduce you to Champ!
Champ is his beautiful German Shepherd. Champ comes running out of his home, greets his dad and us, licking and wagging his tail. “Come on, let me show you his tricks!” Said the Vice President. He takes us out to the big green yard, and starts hitting golf balls. Champ, eager to please his dad, runs after them, fetching them and bringing them back.
So this is pretty awesome. Here I am, thinking we just got to hang out with the Vice President, and that’s fantastic. But I’m sure he’s ready for us to leave him alone. Before we say our goodbyes, I thank him for everything he and his wife do for our veterans. I tell him my father is a USMC Colonel, and I know how much things like this mean to them.
Then the Vice President says something really shocking, “Your dad is a Marine? Let’s call him!”
Um, ok… Just do whatever he says Nikki. The vice president wants to call your dad—PS phone is going dead—please don’t go dead phone!
I dial up my dad, he answers, and I simply hand the phone to Mr. Biden.
“Hi, Colonel Burdine. This is Vice President Joe Biden. I’m here with your daughter at my house and I just wanted to say thank you first, for your service. Also, thank you for your beautiful daughter. We are happy to have her in DC.”
Dad: “Well, you’re welcome, sir! Thanks for thanking me.”
VP: “What are you up to today?”
Dad: “We are about to go to our beach house for vacation. Nikki will be joining us in a few days.”
VP: “Well that’s fantastic. I won’t keep you, just wanted to thank you for your service. Take care.”
And that was that. I grab the phone and quickly say, “Dad, call you in a bit!”
The Vice President took a few selfies with us, thanked us for coming and then we went on our way. As soon as I get off the property, I call my dad.
Me: “Dad, can you believe that?”
Dad: “Yeah, was that the Vice President of your company or something?”
Me: “Um, that was the Vice President of the United States.”
Dad: “What? Oh s*#$t!”
My dad is is a little hard of hearing at times…and let’s be honest, why in the world would he expect to get a phone call from the Veep himself?
Thankfully, a few of my colleagues took pictures of the entire interaction—you can see them in the gallery below.
Six days later, Mr. Biden’s son, Beau, died of brain cancer. It broke my heart to hear the news. I remember something Mr. Biden said to my dad when he called him, he said “I hope my son is as proud of me as your daughter is of you.”
Our Vice President was dealing with so much pain, knowing his son was near death, and yet he was selfless enough to spend time with us. We had no idea—and actually no one knew — just how serious his son’s health was.
My prayers are with the Biden family. And yes, Mr. Vice President, I know your son is just as proud of you.