DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (AP) — Forced into the grimmest role of his job, President Obama on Tuesday prepared to privately honor the remains of the fallen returning home from war, this time the troops killed in a helicopter attack that claimed more American lives than any other incident of the Afghanistan war.
Mr. Obama arrived at Dover Air Force Base to preside as the remains of U.S. forces were carried off a military cargo plane in flag-covered cases. His unscheduled afternoon trip here was kept secret to ensure the security of his helicopter flight to Delaware. Members of the media covering the trip agreed in advance not to report on it until he had landed.
An entrenched wartime president, Mr. Obama has been here before.
In the dark of an October morning in 2009, Mr. Obama watched solemnly as 18 Americans killed in the Afghan war came home, a visceral reminder of a war that long had slipped from the forefront of American debate. He later would call it the most powerful moment of his young presidency.
A total of 30 U.S. troops, seven Afghan commandos and an Afghan interpreter died.
They had been packed into a twin-rotor chopper, en route to help coalition ground forces in a battle with insurgents. Many of the Americans who died were members of the Navy’s SEAL Team Six, the elite unit that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a raid in Pakistan three months ago. None of the SEALs killed in the crash took part in the bin Laden mission.
The devastating loss came just ahead of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America that prompted the war in Afghanistan.
Some of those killed were motivated to join the Special Forces by the 9/11 attacks that bin Laden masterminded.
Three days after the downing of the aircraft by insurgents, the Defense Department has not released the troops’ names. Officials said it is taking time because there were so many killed. Others said privately there is hesitancy to release the names because the majority were from secretive special operations forces.
But the stories of the fallen have been emerging in the days since the crash. Those killed included young fathers, accomplished athletes and people of deep faith. One had dreams of becoming an astronaut after military service. All were deeply committed to the cause.
To Americans focused on economic crises at home, the death toll is a reminder that tens of thousands of U.S. forces will be in harm’s way in Afghanistan through at least 2014.
In this case, reporters won’t see what Mr. Obama does.
The Pentagon ruled there will be no media coverage at the Dover base because the badly damaged remains from the horrific crash are mingled and still being identified.View Entire Story
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