Obama Pays Surprise Visit to Dover for Arrival of Fallen Special Forces

Aug 9, 2011 12:36pm

ABC's Mary Bruce (@marykbruce) reports:

President Obama has arrived at Dover Air Force Base to pay his respects to the fallen service members who lost their lives in this weekend’s deadly helicopter crash in Afghanistan and to witness the official dignified transfer of their remains.

The president arrived at Dover at 12:30 pm Tuesday to see the arrival of the remains of the 22 SEALs, three Air Force controllers, and five Army helicopter crew killed Saturday when Taliban insurgents shot down a CH-47 Chinook in the Tangi Valley, marking the deadliest single attack since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan in 2001.

After arriving at Dover, the president visited the two C-17’s planes containing the remains of the fallen to pay his respects. Afterwards, the resident spent a little over an hour meeting with approximately 250 family members and fellow servicemen and women, offering his condolences for their loss and his deep gratitude for their sacrifice and service. The president was accompanied by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Admiral Mullen and Admiral McRaven.

This is the president’s second visit to Dover to witness the return of fallen soldiers. He first visited in October 2009 to see the return of the remains of 15 service members and three Drug Enforcement Administration agents killed in Afghanistan.

Following an 18-year ban, Obama began allowing the media to cover the return ceremonies in 2009, provided next-of-kin authorizes photographers and television crews to be present.

Due to the catastrophic nature of this crash, however, the remains of the fallen are “unidentified” at this point and the families are not in a position to grant approval for media coverage of the arrival.

“The crash they were in was so horrific and the state of remains such that there was no easy way to see this was this person or this was that person,” Public Affairs Chief for the Air Force Mortuary Operations Van Williams told reporters today.

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