Tuesday, August 9, 2011

President Obama Pays Tribute To Fallen Troops At Dover Air Force Base

President Obama traveled to Dover Air Force Base on Tuesday to attend the return of the remains of the 30 U.S. servicemen killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on Saturday, the deadliest day in the history of the decade-long war. Two transport planes carried home the remains of the servicemen, which included 22 Navy SEALs; most were members of SEAL Team 6, the counterterrorism unit that carried out the mission to find Osama bin Laden. The President arrived by helicopter at Dover Air Force Base at 12:30 p.m.

None of those involved in the bin Laden raid were among the fallen servicemen, U.S. officials have said. Their Chinook helicopter crashed in the remote Tangi valley of Eastern Afghanistan, and officials have said it was probably caused by insurgents firing a rocket-propelled grenade.

President Obama paid his respects to the fallen troops in remarks yesterday at the White House, saying they embody the best aspects of America.

"We will press on, and we will succeed, but now is also a time to reflect on those we lost in the sacrifices of all who serve, as well as their families," President Obama said. "These men and women put their lives on the line for the values that bind us together as a nation. They come from different places, and their backgrounds and beliefs reflect the rich diversity of America. But no matter what differences they might have as individuals, they serve this nation as a team. Our responsibility is to make sure that their legacy is an America that reflects their courage, their commitment, and their sense of common purpose."

The remains were returned to Dover in "unidentified" status until they are positively identified by the Armed Forces Mortuary Affairs Office. In cases where families have been informed, some have talked to the media.  The President was briefed on the casualties on Saturday while at Camp David, and issued a condolence statement.

The President had not announced publicly that he would travel to Dover. On Tuesday morning, the White House canceled a previously scheduled trip to Interstate Moving Services in Springfield, VA, where the President had planned to talk about new fuel efficiency standards for heavy duty vehicles. His motorcade left the White House at 11:32 a.m., and arrived at Ft. McNair at 11:45 a.m. Four helicopters carrying the President, staff and reporters left for Dover five minutes later.

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