The widow of a Navy SEAL killed in a problem-plagued raid in Yemen last month attended President Donald Trump’s address to Congress days after the commando’s father publicly criticized the raid.
“We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a U.S. Navy Special Operator Senior Chief William ‘Ryan’ Owens,” Trump said, while she fought back tears. “Ryan died as he lived: a warrior and a hero — battling against terrorism and securing our nation.”
Owens, 36, became the first American to die in combat under the Trump administration when he was shot and killed on Jan. 29 during a raid against a compound used by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in a village in Yemen.
Trump said Defense Secretary James N. Mattis had deemed the operation “highly successful” and that it “generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.”
Congress gave a standing ovation as Owens’ widow looked up, tears in her eyes, her hands folded in prayer. The rousing applause lasted for more than a minute — the longest of the night — which Trump later acknowledged, saying the recognition “probably broke a record.”
“Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country and for our freedom. We will never forget him,” Trump said.
Trump authorized the raid less than a week after he took office, and the administration has repeatedly said it was a success because the U.S. recovered valuable intelligence about terrorist operations.
In an attempt to bolster that claim, the Pentagon released a video that it said was sensitive intelligence seized during the raid. Officials were embarrassed when the video instead turned out to be a jihadist video posted online since 2007.
William Owens, the SEAL’s father, told the Miami Herald in an interview published Sunday that he refused a chance to meet Trump when he found that the president would attend the transfer of his son’s remains at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
“I told them I didn’t want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him,” Owens told the Herald, saying he wanted an investigation.
“Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into his administration? Why?” Owens asked.
“For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen — everything was missiles and drones — because there was not a target worth one American life. Now all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?”
The U.S. military has acknowledged that Yemeni civilians — possibly more than two dozen, including women and children — were also killed in the attack, along with 14 al-Qaida militants.
Three U.S. commandos were wounded in the firefight, and three others were injured when their MV-22 Osprey aircraft made a crash landing. To prevent it from falling into enemy hands, the $70 million aircraft was destroyed by an airstrike.
The White House said three U.S. military investigations were looking into what happened during the mission, how many civilians died, and why the aircraft crashed.
The investigations will not look into what Owens’ father wants, which is why the president signed off on the operation.
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