President Trump on Wednesday paid tribute to the first U.S. service member killed in combat since he took office during an unannounced trip to Dover Air Force Base.
Trump arrived at the Delaware military base Wednesday afternoon to receive the remains of Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, 36, of Peoria, Ill. -- a Navy SEAL who died during a nighttime raid on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula early Sunday in southwestern Yemen.
Owens died during the first counterterrorism operation of Trump's presidency. In a statement Sunday, Trump touted the successful raid, which he said killed an estimated 14 al-Qaeda members, while lamenting the loss of life.
“Americans are saddened this morning with news that a life of a heroic service member has been taken in our fight against the evil of radical Islamic terrorism,” Trump said in the statement. “The sacrifices made by the men and women of our armed forces, and the families they leave behind, are the backbone of the liberty we hold so dear as Americans, united in our pursuit of a safer nation and a freer world. My deepest thoughts and humblest prayers are with the family of this fallen service member.”
Trump was joined by his daughter, Ivanka, and Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.). He attended the private ceremony with Owens's family, who requested that it be closed to the media out of privacy concerns.
Owens, who enlisted in the Navy in 1998, had already been awarded two Bronze Stars with Valor distinguishing devices and will receive the Purple Heart posthumously.
The raid also killed the eight-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical Yemeni-American cleric who was killed during a 2011 U.S. drone strike.