Henry E. Rohlsen Airport
St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, Governor Mapp, thank you so much for your leadership, the leadership of your entire team. My wife, Karen, and I are honored to be with you today. I spoke to the President this morning. He wanted us to be here in the U.S. Virgin Islands to say very plainly and simply, we are with you today. We will be with you tomorrow. We will be with you every day until the U.S. Virgin Islands comes all the way back. That’s our pledge to each and every one of you. (Applause.)
Honored to be joined by people that have been making this happen, particularly proud members of the military who are with us today. Your adjutant general, General Howell, we want to commend the Virgin Islands National Guard for your efforts. It’s extraordinary for me to think of citizen soldiers, many of whom lost their own home, families in dire circumstances, who nevertheless put on the uniform and stepped into the gap and have been there for families — that have made a difference over much of the last two weeks in the lives of people across the U.S. Virgin Islands.
I’m also very proud to see that at this moment, I am told that — how many states are there, General, that are here? Twenty-five American states have provided support, the National Guard, including — we’re joined today by the Tennessee National Guard, the Vermont National Guard. And the Missouri National Guard are part of this air wing, air assets. Let’s give them a big round of applause. We’re awful proud. (Applause.)
And we’re here in force because we want to get a report in the time that we have here in hangar before we have a chance to greet more of those that are present. I look forward very much to a briefing from our team on the ground here — Admiral Peter Brown, Defense Coordinating Officer Colonel Scott Heintzelman, and Bill Vogel. We are awfully proud of FEMA and the job that FEMA has been doing on the ground. And I’m told that Bill Vogel, you just call him Big Bill. Where did he go? Big Bill — thank you, Bill. Great job on the ground. (Applause.)
And of course, I want to thank your delegate Stacey Plaskett, who has been a great, great champion in Washington, D.C. for the U.S. Virgin Islands. And our administration continues to look forward to work closely with you to make sure that every need is met. So thank you, Stacey, for your leadership.
Along with Stacey, as you mentioned a key number of members of our administration are here — Elaine Chao, the Secretary of Transportation; Don, who is the acting Director of Health and Human Services, that has a large presence here. I think we’ve got more than 2,500 federal personnel on the ground in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
I’m also grateful — this is our first event in public together — but the new Surgeon General of the United States, who happens to be from Indiana, Dr. Jerome Adams, thank you for being on the ground and making a difference here. (Applause.)
And of course, we have Commissioner Gonzalez, from your neighbors in Puerto Rico where Karen and I will be traveling later today.
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THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you for that report and for those kind — and thank you for your leadership. And at the end, thank you for mentioning this great governor you have in the Virgin Islands. (Applause.)
We have been so impressed by the people of the Virgin Islands, so impressed by the leadership that you have here and the can-do attitude and the resilience and the determination that we’ve seen. And it’s been truly inspiring to people all across America and I know inspiring to all of us in this administration.
I mentioned the National Guard, but we’ve got an awful lot of members of the armed forces here. I have to tell you over the last month and a half, the American people have come to appreciate our Coast Guard maybe more than ever before. And I want to thank Admiral Peter Brown and invite a warm round of applause before he gives us an update for all of our armed forces and especially our Coast Guard. Thank you.
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THE VICE PRESIDENT: We’re going to head off to another stop with some folks that are coming alongside neighbors and friends, but I wanted to give your delegate, Stacey Plaskett, a quick word. And then, Governor, maybe any last thoughts before we leave this venue.
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THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Stacey. Thank you for your great leadership and being such a champion of the U.S. Virgin Islands in Washington, D.C. Thank you also for mentioning Puerto Rico’s commissioner, Jennifer Gonzalez, who is with us today and has also been a tireless advocate for the people of Puerto Rico.
Mr. Governor, let me just tell you once again how grateful we are for your leadership. As I mentioned, I spoke to the President this morning. You’ve met with him earlier this week shipboard. But he wanted me to come here to bring our team here to the U.S. Virgin Islands to affirm the outstanding leadership that you and your team have provided during this time of crisis, to affirm all of our armed forces and federal personnel who are here partnering with you, and just to assure you that we are here for the long haul. This is the Virgin Islands, but it is the U.S. Virgin Islands, and we’re going to see it all the way through. So God bless you. (Applause.)