WASHINGTON - In one of the most emotional moments in his speech to Congress Tuesday, President Trump highlighted the heroism of a Navy SEAL, Senior Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, the first serviceman to be killed in action under his administration.
Owens was killed during a Jan. 28 raid against al-Qaeda militants in Yemen.
Trump pointed out Carryn Owens, the Navy commando’s widow, in the audience. “Ryan died as he lived: a warrior and a hero battling against terrorism and securing our nation,” Trump said.
“Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom — we will never forget him,” he said.
A tearful Carryn Owens mouthed, “thank you,” as the chamber erupted in a lengthy and thunderous applause.
Trump said his Defense secretary, Jim Mattis, told him that the intelligence obtained during the raid “will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies."
The raid, conducted shortly after Trump was sworn in, was controversial. It was planned under the Obama administration, but authorized by Trump.
Civilians were killed and a $90 million military aircraft had to be destroyed to avoid it falling into enemy hands after it became disabled. Several Americans were injured in the raid.Critics questioned whether the raid should have been approved, but the Trump administration said the attack was successful, resulting in the capture of intelligence and the deaths of about 14 al-Qaeda militants.
Owens father, quoted in the Miami Herald Sunday, questioned the validity of the mission. “Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into his administration?” he told the newspaper.
The United States military has used drones to target militants in Yemen, but ground raids carried out by U.S. forces are rare.