Biden meets families of three US troops killed in Jordan, saying they ‘risked everything’

(Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

Biden meets families of three US troops killed in Jordan, saying they ‘risked everything’



February 2, 2024

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden joined grieving families at Dover Air Force Base on a gray, chilly Friday to honor the three U.S. service members killed in a drone strike in Jordan.

The Bidens met privately with the families before the solemn, roughly 15-minute ritual, called a dignified handover, which has become relatively uncommon in recent years as the U.S. has retreated from conflicts abroad.

Biden held his hand over his heart as he watched members of a military team transfer the suitcases containing the remains of the fallen soldiers from a military transport plane to a waiting vehicle.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Gen. CQ Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were among Defense Department and government officials who joined the Bidens for the proceedings.

The soldiers killed Sunday were all from Georgia, Sergeant William Jerome Rivers of Carrollton, Sergeant Kennedy Sanders of Waycross and Sergeant Breonna Moffett of Savannah. Sanders and Moffett were posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant.

The deaths were the first U.S. fatalities attributed to Iranian-backed militias, which have intensified their attacks on U.S. forces in the region for months after the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas in October. Separately, two Navy SEALs died during a January mission to board an unflagged ship carrying illegal Iranian-made weapons to Yemen.

These soldiers embodied the very best of our nation: steadfast in their courage. Unwavering in their duty. Unyielding in their commitment to our country, risking their own safety for the safety of their fellow Americans, and our allies and partners with whom we stand in the fight against terrorism, Biden said earlier this week. It is a fight we will not stop.

Sanders’ father, Shawn, said in a Facebook post Friday morning that kindness and the outpouring of love were the only things keeping me awake since his daughter’s death.

This is not the homecoming for Kennedy that I dreamed of, he said in the post. Now I can’t stop reliving this nightmare.

At Thursday’s National Prayer Breakfast at the Capitol, Biden recognized Rivers, Moffett and Sanders by name, vowing again to never forget their sacrifice to the nation.

They risked everything, the president said.

The three soldiersRivers, Sanders and Moffett

hailing from different corners of Georgia, but were brought together into the same company of Army engineers based at Fort Moore. Sanders and Moffett in particular were close friends who regularly called each other from their families back home.

Moffett had turned 23 just nine days before she was killed. She joined the Army Reserves in 2019, but also worked for a home care provider where she cooked, cleaned and ran errands for people with disabilities.

Sanders, 24, worked at a pharmacy while studying to become an X-ray technician and coached children’s soccer and basketball. She had volunteered for the deployment because, according to her parents, she wanted to see different parts of the world.

Rivers, who was 46 years old and named Jerome, joined the Army Reserve in New Jersey in 2011 and served a nine-month tour of Iraq in 2018.

No other service members have been killed as a result of hostile action since 2021, according to the latest Department of Defense statistics.

Thirteen soldiers were killed during the fall of Kabul in Afghanistan, when a suicide bomber at Abbey Gate Airport killed 11 Marines, a sailor and a soldier. Nine service members were killed as a result of hostile actions in 2020.

Friday marks the second dignified transfer Biden has attended as president. In August 2021, he took part in the ritual for the 13 soldiers killed in the suicide bombing in Kabul.

As vice president, Biden attended a dignified transfer in 2016 for two American soldiers killed in a suicide bombing at Bagram Airfield. He also attended one in 2008 as a senator, after the family requested his presence and the Pentagon allowed him to do so.

The US government said this week that the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Iran-backed militias that includes the Kataib Hezbollah group, planned, financed and facilitated the overnight drone strike. While Biden and White House officials have emphasized that they do not want a broader war with Iran, the administration has also warned that it will respond to the deadly attack.

More than 40 troops were also injured in Sunday’s drone strike on Tower 22, a secret US military outpost in the desert whose location allows US forces to infiltrate and leave Syria quietly.


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