WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump made a previously unannounced visit Thursday to Dover Air Force Base to honor the remains of two returning Army officers killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
Chief Warrant Officer 2s David C. Knadle, 33, of Texas, and Kirk T. Fuchigami Jr., 25, of Hawaii, died Wednesday when their helicopter crashed as they provided cover to ground troops in Eastern Afghanistan, the Pentagon said.
The visit is Trump’s third to witness a dignified transfer ceremony at the Delaware base and it comes as he has been increasingly vocal in describing the emotional scenes associated with meeting the parents of fallen soldiers.
Trump has described those meetings in detail to explain his desire to withdraw troops from the Middle East.
The president stood silently and saluted as he watched service members carry the two transfer cases to a waiting vehicle. The soldiers wore Army fatigues, white gloves and black berets.
The ceremony, perhaps the most somber duty for any president, was not on Trump’s public schedule.
The president did not take questions from reporters. As he boarded Marine One, Trump was accompanied by actor Jon Voight, who received a National Medal of Arts earlier in the day at the White House. Voight was also seen by reporters at Dover who were traveling with the president.
The visit comes as the president faces the threat of impeachment in the House, where Democrats are holding a series of hearings to assess whether he held up nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine to pressure Kyiv into opening an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden.
Trump last visited Dover in January to meet with relatives of four U.S. service members killed in an attack in Syria. In 2017, just days after taking office, Trump traveled to Dover to receive the remains of a U.S. Navy seal killed in Yemen.
The president faced bipartisan backlash this fall for ordering the withdrawal of virtually all 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria. At the same time, however, the president is sending tanks, armored vehicles and the soldiers attached to those weapons to Syrian oil fields.
Trump described his impression of the solemn service in a series of remarks last month in an effort to underscore his call to reduce U.S. military engagement overseas.
“And that door came down, and there’s five soldiers on each side – beautiful soldiers, beautiful – and a coffin with a flag on it,” Trump said during a speech Oct. 14. “And that door opened, and you would hear screams and cries like you’ve never heard before, actually. Like we’ve never heard – like I’ve never heard before.”
Contributing: Tom Vanden Brook
©2019 USA Today
Visit USA Today at www.usatoday.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.