The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


44 The Obama Presidency

Obama to attend return of fallen soldiers, DEA agents

By Michael A. Fletcher
President Obama left the White House late Wednesday aboard Marine One bound for Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where he will attend the arrival of the remains of 18 U.S. personnel who were killed in two separate attacks in Afghanistan.

The fallen include seven soldiers and three Drug Enforcement Administration agents who died when their MH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed Monday, and eight soldiers killed Tuesday when their Stryker vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb blast in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs said the president would return to the White House about 4 a.m. The visit was not listed on Obama's public schedule, and the reporters accompanying him were told just hours before his departure.

The Air Force C-17 carrying the remains is expected to arrive at 12:19 a.m. Upon arrival, the remains will be transferred from aircraft to a waiting vehicle and then to the Air Force Mortuary Operations Center, Gibbs said. The dignified transfer is not a ceremony, but rather a solemn movement of the transfer case by a carry team of military personnel from the fallen member's respective service. A dignified transfer is conducted for every U.S. military member who dies in the theater of operation while in the service of their country. A senior ranking flag officer of the fallen member's service attends each dignified transfer.

Gibbs said the official party includes Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.; Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff; DEA Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart; Maj Gen. Daniel Wright, the Army assistant judge advocate; Brig. Gen. Michael Repass, the Army Special Forces commander; and Col. Robert Edmondson of the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center, who will serve as the dignified transfer host officer.

Obama's attendance at the solemn rite will mark an emotional moment as his administration mulls over the way forward in Afghanistan. October has been the deadliest month for U.S. troops in the eight-year-old war, adding pressure to the administration's efforts to settle on a new strategy for the war. As of earlier this week, 54 U.S. troops died in October, surpassing the previous high of 51 in August, according to

Top U.S. military commanders have said they need thousands of reinforcements to beat back the resurgent Taliban, but Obama has said he does not want to rush a decision to send more troops. His advisers have debated whether to limit U.S. goals in Afghanistan, while the military has conducted war games to test the effect of thousands of additional troops.

"I won't risk your lives unless it is absolutely necessary," Obama told a military audience in Jacksonville, Fla., on Monday. "And if it is necessary, we will back you up to the hilt."

The president's visit to the base comes six month after he ended a ban on media coverage of the arrival of fallen soldiers at Dover. The ban had been imposed nearly two decades earlier during the Persian Gulf War.

The administration of former president George H.W. Bush said the ban was aimed at protecting the privacy of the families of the dead, although many activists and other opponents of the policy alleged that it was a way of shielding the American public from the human toll of war.

Posted at 12:15 AM ET on Oct 29, 2009  | Category:  44 The Obama Presidency
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Yet another excellent decision...being on hand to meet returned fallen heroes. This is respect and reverence at the highest level. The President of the United States of America first on hand to witness the return. It is an effort that the previous president was incapable of. Some will say Dubyah met the families. So has Obama. But it's far, far more important for the President to be first on the scene to meet coffins as they come on American soil. Some will say it's a photo-op. Bah! Earlier this year, Obama reversed Dubyahs brainless refusal to have media at Dover back. Camera coverage has existed for several months. Anyone greeting the coffins could have been photographed. Once again, the President is setting a new standard for future Presidents and the bitter, right wing extreme nutjobs can't stand it. Wonderful! Keep up the good work President Obama. Intelligent Americans and much of the world is behind you.

Posted by: bcs2k | November 1, 2009 10:24 AM


Posted by: itscc721 | October 29, 2009 9:25 PM

Obama doesn't give a twit about fallen least American fallen soldiers. Come on democrats, look at him, listen to him. He wants to cut the military 25%. He's dragging his feet on General McCrystal's request while the very soldiers he saluted died. What a freaking hypocrit. He makes me sick. He might as well be dancing on their graves because his agenda is to destroy the USA and everything that makes her great.

Posted by: Callie1 | October 29, 2009 5:17 PM

Rather obvious that Mr. Obama is staging this so that his tracks will be covered whichever way he decided to move in Iraq. If only he were honest enough to say that HIS policy, which he proposed in March and as late as August, has changed. That he has decided that appeasement (which he will call" diplomacy") is the Obama doctrine.

Posted by: RobbyS | October 29, 2009 12:46 PM

The only regret these soldiers have is that it is too late to spit on Obozzo's face as that is the total sum of respect that he deserves as their putrid commander in chief.

This is a nauseating display of phony support as he allows them to be slaughtered while he ponders his next advantageous POLITICAL move.

As a parent I would be disgusted and act in their behalf.

Posted by: Bcamp55 | October 29, 2009 12:35 PM

He will "...back them to the hilt."? How about backing the soldiers we have there now 'to the hilt'? This guy is so phony and incompetent. And now to race off to Dover with journalists in tow. no shame.

Posted by: DaMan2 | October 29, 2009 12:42 AM
What about the previous group of draft dodgers and chicken hawks ? You know, the ones that HID when it was their turn or even worse, had daddy get them a National Guard slot that they DESERTED from ? The ones that started a war with the wrong country ? The one whose Sec Def, when asked why the troops didn't have properly armored vehicles said something about going to war with the army you had as opposed to the army you wanted ? The ones that KNEW they had done something wrong and stupid and was based on lies and didn't need the bad publicity fromsomething like what Obama did, honor those that died for this country ?

Call this man whatever you want but HIS actions are a lot more honorable than the last president's, who in his unending quest for sacrifice and solidarity with the troops gave up freakin' golf, for Chrissakes.

Posted by: dennissuper | October 29, 2009 9:02 AM

I offer my condolences to the families.

I am not impressed however with this presidents actions.
This is another photo op for him. If he was so concerned he would have made a decision about his war. Ya know, the real one.

Again my prayers go out to those who lost loved ones.

Posted by: goofynana | October 29, 2009 7:37 AM

My daughter and son-in-law, Airman Lori and Airman Jacob Campbell(25 yrs.old), are proudly serving in the Air Force in Dover, De. They just called to tell us that they were involved in the Dignified Transfer of the fallen Americans met tonight and were PROUD to have met our President who thanked them for their service, while shaking their hand and they have great respect for him for honoring these brave souls who gave their life for our country. And our family RESPECTS him also for treating our children so warmly and for being there for the grief-stricken families awaiting the arrival of their loved ones. Please don't forget the purpose that brought him and many other respectful military and civilian visitors to Dover AFB tonight. Please pray for the families. The Lee family in Florida humbly honors and thanks their loved ones for their ultimate sacrifice. God bless them!

Posted by: leeclass | October 29, 2009 6:25 AM

The last president couldn't even face watching the fallen coming home on his TV or see pictures of their caskets in the newspapers. So he passed a law to protect his own interests using the families as an excuse.

Thank God we have now have a President that understands the true meaning of sacrifice and will do everything in his power to prevent another dumb war, or the escalation of the Afghanistan war into an even dumber one than it has already become.

Posted by: AverageJane | October 29, 2009 2:01 AM

Nothing more, nothing less than a orchestrated Photo-Op by the "Liar in Chief" !!!
I wonder if he will be taking his teleprompter with him ???
I wonder if he will be trying to justify his delay in making a decision about troop strength with the families of the Brave Soldiers ???
Is he taking FLOTUS Michelle, the girls and his Mother In Law with him, to show them the blood on his hands ???
POTUS MaoBama, the "Liar in Chief" sitting in the Oval Office while brave soldiers die in Afghanistan !!!
Aren't you proud ???

Posted by: thgirbla | October 29, 2009 1:49 AM

america does not have a commander-in-chief right now.

Posted by: mock1ngb1rd | October 29, 2009 1:35 AM

I hope I'm wrong. But this looks like policial theatre to me.

Please I want to know this is not the case.

Posted by: Jaymand | October 29, 2009 1:09 AM

Sandy5274, 12:51am - I think you require serious, intense, and extended therapy. Your rhetoric screams something horrific being internalized deep within your inner-core. Please seek professional, therapeutic assistance. If your job offers such assistance as part of their benefits package, please contact Human Resources Department bright and early in the morning, to request procedures of how to take advantage of this confidential mental therapy program. Please!

Posted by: ct2k12830 | October 29, 2009 1:06 AM

Add lest I forget, may God bless these fallen warriors.

Posted by: fickstdu | October 29, 2009 12:57 AM

This President is giving the decision whether or not to escalate the war the kind of serious, thoughtful consideration it deserves. His attendance at this solemn event is appropriate, and I think it is necessary to allow him to truly internalize the potential cost of that decision. This is not a political game. This is as serious as it gets. One wishes that JFK, LBJ, and Nixon gave this kind of thought to their decisions regarding Vietnam.

Posted by: fickstdu | October 29, 2009 12:54 AM

Thank God Bush and the Republicans are gone. We should all be thankful and praise God.

Posted by: TGBIG | October 29, 2009 12:54 AM

What A Crock of BS here you AWOL MIA Gutless Wonder Pathetic Excuse for a US
President and Commander in Chief Barack
Hussein Obama is,that finally only now after 10 months this total incompetent
POS Barack Obama can suddenly find time to
stop going golfing,jet set apology tours,
endless white house partying,fake photo
ops and endelss BS that only now does Obama
decide to go witness the return our brave
deceased US Troops remains come home from
Obama's War in Afghanistan. Yes Obama you
have their blood on you gutless hands you
POS Yellow Coward as your refusal to send
the requested 80,000 more troops to fight
in Afghanistan helped kill these troops!
Time for Barack Hussein Obama To Resign
Or Face Immediate Impeachment and be Hanged
for Treason! Barack Hussein Obama is America's New 21st Century Benedict Arnold!

Posted by: sandy5274 | October 29, 2009 12:51 AM

He will "...back them to the hilt."? How about backing the soldiers we have there now 'to the hilt'? This guy is so phony and incompetent. And now to race off to Dover with journalists in tow. no shame.

Posted by: DaMan2 | October 29, 2009 12:42 AM

i'm curious... obama lifted this controversial ban on the media at dover SIX MONTHS AGO...

so why is it NOW that he goes? just because 18 americans were killed in a short several days?

what about the u.s. soldiers who have DIED during the PAST SIX MONTHS????

i guess obama is just playing POLITICS and will have many, many, cameras for photo ops to make himself look like he cares.

to obama.. 18 dead is better than 1 if he has to take off time from his busy schedule of choosing dogs for his family and choosing private schools for his daughters.

quantity is more important in a PHOTO op than quality.

sad, huh?

Posted by: AuthoritativeAuthoritarian | October 29, 2009 12:33 AM

maybe obama will be ARRESTED upon arrival at dover when he shows up.

i wouldn't have a problem with that.

the tall scrawny one can't make decisions. the afghan militias are TAKING ADVANTAGE of this and are striking right and left.

obama is responsible.

this country need STRONG LEADERSHIP.

not some wishy washy tall scrawny one that only has experience of being a suck up on a college debate team.

Posted by: AuthoritativeAuthoritarian | October 29, 2009 12:23 AM

I'm glad he's going to do this. While it might not be a ceremony, the return of fallen Americans to the nations soil is an important event for all citizens.

The people who've given their lives in service to the country tell us a story of sacrifice if we're willing to listen, and how we act about that sacrifice tells the world a lot about America.

It's hard to know that others are giving their lives for my safety on a daily basis, but I'm grateful for the peace they keep in my life too.

Posted by: timscanlon | October 29, 2009 12:22 AM

Obama get back in cheney's spider hole!!!

Posted by: knjincvc | October 29, 2009 12:17 AM

WOW! My the men and women who fought and died for the United States of America rest in peace. May God give their families comfort. May God give our president the wisdom to make this most difficult decision. God Bless America. I'm proud of you Mr. President.

Posted by: esqcass | October 29, 2009 12:16 AM

For those of you who haven't yet figured it out yet we have ourselves a wonderful President.


Posted by: jato11 | October 29, 2009 12:13 AM

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