The widow of a US Navy Seal who died during a clandestine operation in Yemen that killed 25 civilians was given an emotional standing ovation after US President Donald Trump recognised the sacrifice during his Congressional address on Tuesday.
"We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a US Navy Special Operator, Senior Chief William 'Ryan' Owens," Trump said, addressing Owens from the podium during his first address to Congress (28 February). "Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero – battling against terrorism and securing our nation," Trump said.
Both members of the House and Senate gave Owens a standing ovation. "Ryan is looking down right now. And he's very happy because I think he just broke a record," Trump said.
Earlier in the day the president insisted during an interview with Fox News that he was in no way to blame for Owens' death and the raid which destroyed a $75m (£60m) American helicopter and left dozens of women and children dead.
"This was something they wanted to do," Trump said, referring to his generals. "They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected, the most respected that we've had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan."
Trump signed off on the raid after Defence Secretary, General James Mattis, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, reportedly urged him to go ahead with it just days after his inauguration.
Speaking to Congress, Trump said that the clandestine operation – which failed to kill the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) Qasim al Raymi and gather intelligence on the terrorist group – was a complete success.
"I just spoke to General Mattis, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, 'Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.'" Trump said, adding "Ryan's legacy is etched into eternity."
Yet Owens' father, Bill Owens, has demanded an investigation into what he referred to as a "stupid mission" and was not present during Trump's address. He has refused to meet with Trump to discuss the issue. "For two years prior ... everything was missiles and drones [in Yemen] ... Now all of a sudden we had to make this grand display," Owens told the Miami Herald last week.
Senior US officials have also told NBC News the raid failed to yield any significant intelligence. "I don't think you can – when you lose a $75m airplane, and more importantly American life is lost and wounded – I don't believe that you can call it a success," Senator John McCain told NBC News after he received a classified briefing on the raid on 7 February. McCain chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"Obviously they didn't want to kill women or children," McCain added, referring to the death of eight-year-old American girl Nawar al-Awlaki during the mission. "The objective was to kill the bad guys but also capture some of them."