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Obama pays respects to copter-crash victims
Question of the Day
With President Obama on hand to mourn privately, the remains of 30 U.S. troops killed this weekend in the single bloodiest day of the Afghanistan War were returned to American soil at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Tuesday.
Accompanied by his top military team and an Air Force colonel from the base, the commander in chief visited two C-17s that transported the remains of the fallen troops — 22 Navy SEALs, five Army crewmen and three airmen — who were killed in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday when their helicopter was struck in an attack by Taliban rebels.
He and his team then lined up outside of the planes and saluted as the remains of the U.S. troops, along with seven Afghan troops and a translator, were carried off the aircraft in transport cases draped with 30 American flags and eight Afghan flags.
The Pentagon has not identified the fallen Americans, but some of their families have come forward and spoken, and they described men who had dreamed of serving their country, many of them growing up determined to become part of the elite Navy SEALs.
One of the dead was Aaron Vaughn, a 30-year-old father of two from Virginia Beach, who met his wife, Kimberly, when she was a Washington Redskins cheerleader on a USO tour in Guam. He had aspired to a military career since childhood. After Sept. 11, he told his parents he wanted to become a SEAL.
“He felt, and so did the other members of his team, that the very existence of our republic is at stake,” his father, Billy Vaughn, told NBC’s “Today.” “Because of that, Aaron was willing to give his life.”
Jason Workman, 32, of Blanding, Utah, also cited Sept. 11 as his motive for aspiring to join the special operations forces, childhood friend Tate Bennett told the Deseret News. He completed his Mormon mission to Brazil and Philadelphia, attended college, then joined the Navy with the specific goal of becoming a SEAL.
“Not making it just wasn’t an option,” Mr. Bennett said of his friend, who leaves behind a wife and 21-month-old son.
For the past few days, cable news shows have aired photos of the slain Americans and interviews with their families, which hearkened back to the early days of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, when lists of the dead were staples of news coverage.
In recent years, as President George W. Bush’s presidency faded and the Iraq War wound down, coverage of fallen troops also slackened.
Other changes also were made. Early in his presidency, Mr. Obama ordered the Pentagon to review a nearly 2-decade-old military policy that prevented press coverage of remains being returned to Dover. In February 2009, the Defense Department scrapped the policy and gave families of fallen troops the option of allowing press coverage.
Tuesday’s arrival, however, was closed to reporters and photographers. Pentagon officials said 19 of the 30 families had objected to press coverage.
Van Williams, a spokesman for the base’s mortuary affairs operation said Saturday’s crash was so horrific that bodies were not able to be identified easily. Consequently, the remains were transported together rather than in the customary single container for each service member, making it impossible for any of the families to give their individual consent.
Mr. Williams said the remains will be identified through DNA, dental records and fingerprints.
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About the Author
Kara Rowland, White House reporter for The Washington Times, is a D.C.-area native. She graduated from the University of Virginia, where she studied American government and spent nearly all her waking hours working as managing editor of the Cavalier Daily, UVa.’s student newspaper.
Her interest in political reporting was piqued by an internship at Roll Call the summer before her ...
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