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Biden to speak at son's deployment

From NBC/NJ's Mike Memoli

WILMINGTON, Del. -- As Biden actively prepares for Thursday's vice presidential debate in St. Louis, the imminent deployment to Iraq of his eldest son, Beau, is also weighing on his mind this week.

Beau Biden, who joined the Delaware National Guard in 2003, is being called to active duty with the 261st Signal Brigade on Friday. It's the first time the unit is being sent to Iraq. Lt. Col. Len Grattieri, public affairs officer for the state National Guard, confirmed that the Delaware senator will speak at the deployment ceremony in Dover.

"He usually addresses every unit that we deploy," Grattieri said. "What he usually talks about is the current situation in Iraq or Afghanistan, depending on where the unit is going, and wishes them good luck in their deployment."

Biden is expected to return to Delaware immediately after Thursday's debate. As was the case when Gov. Sarah Palin spoke at her son's deployment, there is sensitivity about his presence, given Biden's status as the vice presidential nominee. But Grattieri said he does not expect any changes to the format of Friday's event.

"It's certainly not a political rally. It's to support the troops," he said.

Typically Biden, as the longest-serving member of the Delaware congressional delegation, would speak third in the program, following Gov. Ruth Ann Minner and the National Guard adjutant general.

Beau Biden, who is also Delaware's attorney general, would be expected to serve the 12 month deployment. In the event that Biden becomes vice president, Grattieri said that the Army would make decisions about whether to recall his son for security considerations.

The campaign has been reluctant to discuss any details of Beau's deployment. Biden press secretary David Wade did say, however, that family time is "very important this week."

Biden has spent most of today at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Wilmington, where the campaign has set up a mock debate stage. Gov. Jennifer Granholm is playing the part of Palin.