The father of the first active service member to die in combat under the Donald Trump administration is strongly criticizing the president.
However, despite the father’s criticism, William “Ryan” Owens’ wife, Carryn Owens, was Trump’s guest at his speech to Congress on February 28. In a very moving moment, she looked upward with eyes welling as the room erupted into applause, and Trump praised her husband as an American hero.
The raid has been the subject of confusion and controversy since it was launched against Al-Qaeda leaders in that country, which is one of those subjected to the president’s controversial travel ban. In addition to Owens, the 8-year-old daughter of an America-born already deceased terrorist leader also perished in the raid.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Bill Owens Refused to Meet Trump When the President Came to Pay His Respects
When President Donald Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, showed up unannounced to pay respects as Owens’ son’s body arrived at Dover Air Force base, Bill Owens refused to meet with the president.
“I’m sorry, I don’t want to see him,” he recalled saying to a military chaplain, according to an interview the elder Owens gave to the Miami Herald newspaper.
The Miami Herald reported that Owens also said: “I told them I didn’t want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him. Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into his administration? Why? For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen — everything was missiles and drones — because there was not a target worth one American life. Now, all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?”
At his speech to Congress on February 28, Trump had only the most laudatory things to say about the Navy SEAL. He also praised the mission. Trump said, in part, “Ryan died as he lived. A warrior and a hero, battling against terrorism and securing our nation.” Trump called it a “highly successful” raid that generated “large amounts of vital intelligence…Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity.”
2. Owens Is Demanding an Investigation Into the Raid, Saying Lingering Questions Remain
According to Fox News, Owens has called for an investigation into the raid that killed his son, saying, “The government owes my son an investigation.” NBC News reported that the Pentagon already has several investigations underway into the raid.
CBS News reported that White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told ABC’s “This Week” that “she believes the president would support an investigation,” quoting her as saying, “I can’t imagine what this father is going through. His son is a true American hero, and we should forever be in his son’s debt.”
3. The Father Was Upset by Trump’s Treatment of the Gold Star Parents of Humayun Khan
The Miami Herald also reported that Owens said he was upset by Donald Trump’s treatment during and after the Democratic National Convention of the Gold Star parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, who died in combat.
According to Fox News, Owens “said he was also troubled by the attack Trump leveled at Khizr and Ghazala Kahn, an American Muslim family whose Army officer son died in Iraq in 2004.” After the Khans spoke in favor of Hillary Clinton at the convention, Trump had criticized the Gold Star parents.
4. The Raid That Killed Owens Also Led to the Deaths of Civilians
William “Ryan” Owens was killed in the late January raid targeting Al-Qaeda leaders in Yemen that occurred shortly after Trump took office, although the planning for it started during the Obama administration.
According to Fox 31 Denver, White House Spokesman Michael Short said, “Chief Petty Officer Owens is an American hero who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of his country. The mission he participated in yielded valuable intelligence in the ongoing fight against radical Islamic terrorism.”
Although the White House has labeled the raid a success, that depiction was criticized by Republican Sen. John McCain and others, as it also led to other American injuries, the death of an 8-year-old child and other civilians. Multiple militants were also reported to have died in the raid.
However, NBC News reported that the raid “has so far yielded no significant intelligence.” According to NBC, the attack was also staged in hopes of killing or capturing “certain militants.” NBC News reported that “six other U.S. service members were wounded. And at least 25 civilians were killed, including nine children under the age of 13, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.” A U.S. military aircraft was destroyed during the gunfight.
5. Ryan Owens Was a Decorated Navy SEAL & His Father Is a Retired Police Detective
According to CBS News, Bill Owens is a retired Fort Lauderdale, Florida police detective.
Cleveland.com reported that the elder Owens is also a military veteran. The son, known as Ryan, was a member of the famed Navy SEAL team 6.
Owens, 36, a married father, was from Peoria, Illinois. According to The Chicago Tribune, he had dreamed of being a SEAL since he was in high school.
“People might have thought it was just a kid talking,” high school friend Cody Jackson told the Tribune. “But he meant every word of it. He always talked about the greatest thing he could do was serve his country.”
A high school athlete, Owens enlisted in the Navy after graduating from high school, the Chicago Tribune reported.
He was a “decorated Navy SEAL from the Virginia-based elite unit known as SEAL Team 6,” according to the San Diego Union Tribune.