Story by: Eric Durr - Division of Military and Naval Affairs
Dated: Tue, Dec 17, 2013
Dr. Jill Biden hosts a National Guard Christmas Tree dedication in her office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, in Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2013. The tree includes an ornament made by the New York National Guard Family Programs Office. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
There’s a little bit of New York hanging on the Christmas Tree in the Washington D.C. office belonging to Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joseph Biden this Christmas season.
Biden, the mother of a Delaware Army National Guard Officer, as well as being the Second Lady of the United States, asked the National Guard Family Programs office to create a National Guard Christmas Tree for her office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building .
Each of the 54 state and territorial National Guards were asked to create an ornament which would be unique to their state and National Guard.
The tree is part of the Joining Forces campaign through which Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama are encouraging Americans to support military families.
The New York National Guard ornament on Biden’s tree is the product of a lot of brainstorming, a little bit of work, and $3 or $4 worth of parts by the New York National Guard Family Programs Staff here at state headquarters, explained Keri O’Neil, the Family Program’s Child and Youth Program Coordinator.
“We had to think about it,” she said. “We had many ideas floating in the office down to an apple that was carved into a swan, because one of the guys in the office could do that.”
They really liked the idea of incorporating an apple into the design, to represent both the Big Apple of New York City and the “apple knockers” upstate, O’Neil laughed. But they decided it wasn’t practical.
“Sending a rotting apple through the mail wasn’t going to work,” she said.
The requirements for the ornament were that it represent the state, the Army and Air National Guard in the state and the Family Programs office.
The team in the New York Family Programs office decided that nothing represented all that better than the Family Programs coin, O’Neal said.
“It says New York National Guard Family Programs, it has a family on it, and it is purple, which represents both the Army and Air Guard, and it has yellow on it to represent the Yellow Ribbon Program,” O’Neil explained.
It also says state, nation and community on the back, along with the Army and Air Guard logos and says “Mission First. Family Always”, O’Neil said. That is what Family Programs is all about, allowing the Soldiers and Airmen to conduct their missions while taking care of their families.
The next step was to make a pretty ornament out of the coin. The design team took a coin and drilled a small hole in it. They bought a snow globe from a craft store and hung the coin in the snow globe with fine wire. They filled the globe with water and filled it with glitter for “that Christmassy touch”, O’Neil said.
The final step was to put the famous “I Love NY” logo, in which a heart replaces the word love, on the base of the globe and hang it from a pretty ribbon.
“It’s such an iconic symbol that we knew it would grab everybody’s attention,” O’Neil explained.
Then the ornament was boxed up and shipped to the National Guard Bureau office in Arlington. From there it was taken to Biden’s office and hung on her tree by National Guard Bureau Soldiers, Airmen, spouses and kids.
“To have an ornament from New York Family Program display and hung from Dr. Biden’s Christmas Tree is really neat,” said John Willsey, Director of New York National Guard Family Programs.
“It is a true testament to their support of not only the National Guard but to the value of Families and the part they play in our Soldiers lives and in the defense of our country,” he said.