‘Their sacrifice will never be forgotten’: Victims of Benghazi massacre return home as Obama and Clinton pay tribute
- The bodies of Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen A. Doherty and Tyrone S. Woods were returned to the United States today in a ‘transfer of remains’ ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base
- Their families watched as the were taken from a military jet and their coffins transferred into four hearses parked under a giant stars and stripes flag
- President Obama praised all four men and said that ‘We will bring justice to those who took them from us’
- A visibly affected Secretary of State Hilary Clinton offered her ‘deepest gratitude’ to the deceased men for their service
PUBLISHED: 14:10 EST, 14 September 2012 | UPDATED: 08:19 EST, 15 September 2012
The coffins of the four men were brought back to the United States on a military transport plane this afternoon and carried by serving officers to waiting hearses parked under a giant hanging Stars and Stripes.
‘Their sacrifice will never be forgotten. We will bring to justice those who took them from us,’ said President Barack Obama during his speech in front of the dead men’s family. ‘Chris Stevens was everything America could want in an ambassador,’ he added.
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‘The United States of America will never retreat from the world,’ continued the president.
‘We will never stop working for the dignity and freedom that every (person) deserves. … That’s the essence of American leadership. … That was their work in Benghazi, and that is the work we will carry on.’
Opening his tribute to the dead consulate staff members, Mr Obama spoke of Christopher Stevens and said he, ‘was everything America could want in an ambassador.’
‘Four Americans, four patriots. They loved this country. They chose to serve it, and served it well,’ said Obama.
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He also spoke movingly about Department of State employee Sean Smith and the two former Navy SEALS Glen A. Doherty and Tyrone S. Woods who also perished in the attack.
‘They had a mission they believed in. They knew the danger, and they accepted it.
‘They didn’t simply embrace the American ideal, they lived it; they embodied it. The courage, the hope, and yes, the idealism – that fundamental American belief that we could leave this world a little better than before.
‘That’s who they were, and that’s who we are. If we want to truly honor their memory, that’s who we must always be.’
Losses: U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, left, and former Navy SEAL Glen Doherty, right, were killed during Tuesday night’s attack
Gone: Diplomat Sean Smith, left, and Tyrone S. Woods, right, were also killed in the melee
At the beginning and at the end of his remarks, Obama cited John 15:13 from the Bible: ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’
Obama said the four dead Americans laid down their lives ‘in service to us all.’
‘Their sacrifice will never be forgotten,’ said President Obama.
Speaking before the president, a clearly emotional Secretary of State Hilary Clinton offered up thanks to the four U.S. citizens who died after the Benghazi consulate was stormed on September the 11th.
‘Today we bring home four Americans who gave their lives for our country and our values,’ said Clinton. ‘To the families of our fallen colleagues, I offer our most heartfelt condolences and deepest gratitude.’
The transfer of remains came three days after an attack on the consulate, one of a series of assaults on U.S. outposts in Muslim countries that U.S. officials blame on an anti-Muslim video made in the United States.
Clinton said the rage and violence aimed at American missions was prompted by ‘an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.’
Clinton praised Sean Smith and ex Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods as someone who she knew personally.
‘He had the hands of a healer as well as the arms of a warrior, earning distinction as a registered nurse and certified paramedic,’ said Clinton of Woods.
Clinton also hailed the other ex-Navy SEAL, Glen Doherty. ‘He, too, died as he lived, serving his country and protecting his colleagues.’
The Secretary of State said Stevens, ‘won friends for the United States in far-flung places,’ and thanked his parents, who were at the ceremony, for the ‘gift’ that Stevens was.
Clinton and Obama both spoke of how the four men lived their lives — and how their mission would go on.
‘This work, and the men and women who risk their lives to do it, are at the heart of what makes America great and good,” Clinton said. ‘So we will wipe away our tears, stiffen our spines, and face the future undaunted.’
The victims of the attack in the U.S. consulate in Libya are returned to American soil at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland today
Also attending the ceremony were Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
The searing images of burning flags, breached embassies and smoldering cars have shocked the nation.
The deaths on Tuesday, the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and the anti-American sentiment behind them underscored a foreign policy paradox for Obama.
Many of the protests in the Arab world were in countries that underwent Obama-backed revolutions during the Arab Spring.
Illustrating the volatility, Friday’s ceremony unfolded as a Marine rapid response team arrived in Yemen’s capital as protests erupted there.
In addition to Stevens, the ceremony also honored three other Americans killed in Benghazi — Smith, an Air Force veteran who worked as an information management specialist for the State Department; Doherty, a former Navy SEAL who worked for a private security firm and was protecting the consulate in Benghazi; and Woods, also a former Navy SEAL who had served protective duty in various U.S. posts.
Following the ‘transfer of remains’ ceremony, the bodies were to be flown to a military mortuary at an air base in Dover, Delaware.
US President Barack Obama listens as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during the ceremony marking the return to the U.S. of the remains of the four Americans killed in an attack this week in Benghazi, Libya
Stevens, who went by the first name Chris, had only been appointed as Libyan ambassador by President Obama in January. It came after an esteemed career within the United States foreign service which spanned more than two decades.
Speaking outside the White House on Wednesday, President Obama hailed Stevens and the three other U.S. officials who died in the attack as devoted to working for democracy.
‘It’s especially tragic that Chris Stevens died in Benghazi as it’s a city that he helped to save,’ Obama said.
With ‘characteristic skill, courage and resolve, he built partnerships with Libyans… and he worked tirelessly to support this young democracy.
‘He was a role model to those who worked with him and to the young diplomats who strive to follow in his footsteps.’
U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton return to their seats after speaking