President Trump highlighted the presence at his address Tuesday night of Carryn Owens, the wife of William “Ryan” Owens, the Navy SEAL who died in a counterterrorism operation authorized by Trump last month.
“Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero, battling against terrorism and securing our nation,” Trump said.
Trump reportedly spoke with Carryn Owens after the Jan. 29 raid on an al-Qaeda stronghold in central Yemen, the first counterterrorism operation approved by the new administration and a significant escalation in U.S. military activities in Yemen.
But Owens’ father, Bill Owens, refused to meet with Trump at Dover Air Force Base earlier this month, where family members had gathered to receive Owens’ remains. The elder Owens questioned the necessity and the timing of the operation, and demanded a full investigation.
In some ways, the raid marked an inauspicious start to Trump’s conduct of national security affairs, triggering criticism for the series of unexpected events that led to Owens’ death, likely civilian casualties, and the destruction of a $75 million aircraft, and for the approval process that many former officials and experts have said lacked rigor and proper scrutiny.
U.S. military officials meanwhile have maintained it was a successful raid that provided valuable insight into one of the world’s most potent militant groups.
In recent days Trump has appeared to place responsibility for the raid, which may have killed a score of women and children, on his top military officials, saying in an interview broadcast on Tuesday that the generals “lost Ryan.”
Again on Tuesday night, the president appeared to assign ownership of the raid to his Defense Sec. Jim Mattis. Trump said he had spoken to Mattis, who told him the operation “generated large amounts of vital intelligence.”