The president paused his re-election campaign to express condolences to two U.S. soldiers who died in a tragic shooting in the Middle East on Feb. 8.
President Donald Trump excused himself early from his rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, to catch a flight to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and pay his respects to two servicemen killed in Afghanistan. The pair died shortly after a man wearing an Afghan army uniform fired a machine gun in their direction.
The Defense Department has identified the soldiers as Sgt. Javier Jaguar Gutierrez and Sgt. Antonio Rey Rodriguez, both 28. A further six American soldiers suffered nonlife-threatening injuries from the attack, according to The Associated Press.
Gutierrez was born in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and had previously served in Iraq. Rodriguez was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and had already been deployed eight times to support Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, which was established in 2015. Both had been promoted to sergeant first class and each had been awarded a bronze star and Purple Heart.
National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien joined the 425 mile journey to the First State traveling on Air Force One, and confirmed the president spent time with family members of the deceased and later visited injured soldiers recovering at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, about 8 miles north of downtown Washington.
“These are terrible sacrifices for the families and these guys are heroes, they are real warriors, and did a great job for the American people,” he said according to Fox News.
The president saluted the fallen heroes”while Vice President Mike Pence, who also attended, could be seen using his hand to cover his heart while each soldier’s remains were carried out of a C-17 military plane and transferred to a transport vehicle in special transfer cases.
O’Brien described the somber occasion as for President Trump as “probably the toughest thing he does as president.”
“These are tough times,” he said according to the broadcaster. “It is tough for the president but he thinks it is important to be there for the families and recognize them.”
The news agency reported a female mourner ignored security protocol and ran toward the plane carrying the remains. She jumped onto ramp and could be seen crying and screaming as others tried to calm her down. She continued to cry as the doors on the “dignified transfer” vehicle closed.
A total of six U.S. service members have died in Afghanistan since the beginning of the year. In 2019 a further 20 service people died in combat while a further two died in noncombat situations.