President Trump and first lady Melania Trump paid their respects Thursday evening to two U.S. Army officers who were killed this week in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
The president and first lady traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where they watched as flag-draped coffins containing the bodies of Chief Warrant Officer 2 David C. Knadle, 33, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kirk T. Fuchigami Jr., 25, were removed from a military aircraft.
The Trumps and a small group of aides and military personnel bowed their heads in prayer, then saluted or held a hand over their heart as a U.S. Army carry team transported the coffins.
Trump has described witnessing the transfer of remains of fallen military personnel as “the toughest thing I have to do” as president.
Both Knadle, of Tarrant, Texas, and Fuchigami Jr., of Keaau, Hawaii, died Wednesday when their helicopter crashed as they provided air cover for ground troops in Logar Province in eastern Afghanistan. Both were assigned to Fort Hood, Texas.
The crash brought this year’s U.S. death toll in Afghanistan to 19, excluding three noncombat deaths, The Associated Press reported. More than 2,400 Americans have died in Afghanistan since military operations began there in 2001.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for shooting down the helicopter, but the U.S. military has dismissed that as a false claim. The crash remains under investigation.
Those accompanying the president and first lady included Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, Army Sgt. Major Michael Grinston and actor Jon Voight, who came at Trump’s invitation after being honored at a White House ceremony earlier in the day.
The trip to Dover was the president’s second this year and third overall since taking office. In January, Trump paid his respects to four Americans who were killed by a suicide bombing in Syria, and in February 2017, shortly after taking office, Trump attended a transfer service for a Navy SEAL who was killed during a raid against al-Qaeda in Yemen.
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The Associated Press contributed to this story.