President Biden bore witness Friday to the ceremonial return of the bodies of three American soldiers killed by Iran-backed militants in Jordan this past weekend after meeting with their families.
Biden, 81, appeared near tears and placed his hand over his heart on the tarmac of Dover Air Force Base in Delaware as flag-draped cases containing the bodies were offloaded from a military cargo plane.
Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, 46, Spc. Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, and Spc. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23, were killed and more than 40 US troops were wounded in the Jan. 28 drone attack on a remote outpost called Tower 22 near the Syrian border.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who is recovering from prostate cancer surgery, used a cane to stand alongside first lady Jill Biden and other officials on the tarmac.
Biden met privately with the families of the three soldiers ahead of the transfer of their remains.
The president previously spoke by phone with relatives and asked if they would like him to attend — after his attempts to comfort the families of 13 Americans killed in August 2021 during the US withdrawal from Afghanistan went sideways after he checked his watch and talked about his own son Beau’s death from cancer.
Biden, who spent Thursday night at his home in Wilmington, took an unusually short 19-minute flight aboard Air Force One to reach the Dover base rather than make the roughly 50-minute motorcade drive to central Delaware.
He returned to Wilmington following the ceremony.
Biden told reporters Tuesday that “yes” he had determined the US answer to the attack, but the American military has not yet announced retaliatory strikes.
The Iran-backed Iraqi group Kataib Hezbollah, a potential perpetrator, said Tuesday it would halt its attacks on American troops.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday that the Islamic Resistance in Iraq umbrella group was ultimately responsible for the deadly attack.
The fatalities in Jordan followed a series of other operations by Iranian proxy groups in Iraq, Syria, and off Yemen’s coast following the Oct. 7 terror assault by Hamas against Israel.
Biden last month ordered US airstrikes on the Houthi movement that controls most populated areas of Yemen after the Iran-backed group repeatedly attacked commercial ships in the Red Sea.
Hamas terrorists murdered about 1,200 people in southern Israel and took more than 200 hostages to the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7, triggering an invasion by the Jewish state to oust the group from power in the territory.