FORT WORTH, Texas — During his visit to Fort Worth, President Joe Biden took some brief time out of his schedule to phone the family of a Marine from Texas now imprisoned in Russia for almost 1,000 days.
Trevor Reed, 30, has been imprisoned in Russia for over two and a half years after visiting to see his girlfriend in 2019.
U.S. officials believe Reed was imprisoned on trumped-up charges and was solely picked up as a bargaining chip for a future prisoner swap with America.
His parents, Joey and Paula, want Biden to make a deal with Russia to bring their son and other detained Americans home before tensions between the U.S. and Russia worsen as the war in Ukraine continues.
Both parents requested a meeting with Biden while the president was in Fort Worth, discussing veteran issues.
The meeting was denied, so the pair and their daughter Taylor held signs saying "Free Trevor Reed" outside Biden's event at the Fort Worth VA Clinic and Tarrant County Resource Connection.
When the president's motorcade passed the couple, he pointed toward them, but the vehicles kept rolling toward their location.
At most, the couple was hoping the president would stop and say a few words even though the chances were slim.
However, after Biden's event finished, Paula Reed's phone rang.
"I looked at my phone, and it said 'White House,' and I couldn't believe it," Paula Reed said.
Reed, surrounded by media members, put the phone on speaker and Biden's voice reverberated through her phone.
"Look, what you're going through is hell," President Biden said. "I just can't imagine what you're going through. My son was in Iraq and Kosovo for a year and a half, and I lost him."
Biden was referring to his son Beau who died in 2015 due to aggressive brain cancer.
"I don't want you to think it's not something that I constantly think about," Biden finally said before the Reed family moved away to speak further privately.
A White House official said Tuesday night that Biden reiterated his commitment to doing everything he can to bring Trevor Reed home, to staying in close touch with his family, and to finding a time to meet in person.
Reed's parents backed that up.
"He wanted to tell us how terrible he feels that he wasn't able to meet with us today," Paula Reed said. "He said he feels sorry and understands what we're going through is really difficult for Trevor and us."
"Better words could not be heard by a mother whose son is there."
Reed's parents live in Granbury, which is west of Fort Worth. Before becoming a civilian and attending the University of North Texas, Reed served as a Marine security guard for the Obama administration.
His parents said he was assigned to Camp David, protecting President Barack Obama and then-Vice President Biden.
"He's met both of them, and we have the photographs to prove it," Joey Reed said.
But in 2019, Reed traveled to Moscow to spend the summer with his girlfriend, a law student he had met online. The two had been dating for some time, but after a private party, Reed became intoxicated and Russian police took him to sober up at a nearby station.
However, Reed's family says things took a drastic turn after Russia's FSB intelligence agency agents arrived and questioned Reed about his time being a Marine.
The 30-year-old was charged with assaulting a police officer, per family, and was put on trial for the charge, which U.S. officials have patently described as absurd.
In 2020, Reed was sentenced to nine years in prison. After losing his appeal, he was moved to a prison camp in Mordovia, a penal colony roughly 350 miles from Moscow.
U.S. officials have opined that Reed's charges, along with those levied against another Marine named Paul Whelan, who's still in Russian custody, were fabricated by Russia to use the pair as bargaining chips for a possible prisoner swap with America.
Reed's family says the prison camp hasn't allowed their son direct communications with them or his attorneys for weeks. They also added that he'd spent time in solitary confinement for refusing to do hard labor.
On Friday, for the first time in 232 days, they received a call from Reed. The 30-year-old also made a call on Monday.
"We were so surprised to hear from him," Joey Reed said. "It was 3 a.m. in the morning, and we talked for roughly 15 to 20 minutes."
Reed's parents said their son has contracted tuberculosis and hasn't been given any access to medicine.
"He sounded terrible and had been coughing up blood daily," Paula Reed said.
"We want to get him home before something really bad happens to him."
The Reed family feels like their window of opportunity is closing, and with the 30-year-old's health in question, they're determined to speak more into the president's ear.
"We know he's a caring and compassionate man," Joey Reed said. "We just believe if we can speak with him, that he'll make whatever he needs to happen to bring our son and Paul Whelan home."
Something Biden said brought Joey Reed to tears. Before hanging up, he told the Reed family he prayed a rosary for their son on Tuesday.
"Trevor told us on the phone that he felt like he's been forgotten when we told him what we were planning to do today," Joey Reed said.
"To hear the President of the United States prayed for him...was moving."