WASHINGTON — In a strikingly emotional moment Tuesday night, President Donald Trump turned to the widow of the Navy SEAL killed in a raid in Yemen to praise her husband’s sacrifice.
Carryn Owens, the widow of Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, received 2 minutes and 11 seconds of thunderous, sustained applause when Trump acknowledged her during his joint address to Congress.
The moment was the emotional highpoint in Trump’s key speech. Owens looked up at the ceiling, seemingly to her late husband, as she sat crying next to Ivanka Trump.
In recognizing the fallen SEAL, Trump attempted to set to rest questions about the success of the operation, the first military mission he approved as commander in chief.
“Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero — battling against terrorism and securing our nation,” Trump said after speaking about the dedication of men and women in uniform.
Seemingly acknowledging the length of the standing ovation, Trump said directly to Carryn Owens: “Ryan is looking down, right now, and you know that, and he is very happy, because I think he just broke a record.”
Carryn Owens smiled and clapped at the comment.
The raid in Yemen occurred in late January during the second weekend of Trump’s presidency. Owens died, an aircraft crashed, several service members were injured and reports have indicated many civilians were killed.
Trump quoted Defense Secretary James Mattis’ positive assessment of the raid during his speech Tuesday.
“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. “Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity. Thank you.”
“As the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” Trump said. “Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom — we will never forget Ryan.”
The White House kept Owens’ attendance under wraps, not publicly releasing the name when aides rolled out a slew of other participants over the 24 hours before the speech.
Rick Santorum, a former Republican senator and now a CNN contributor, said, “In front of the world to say your husband’s life mattered and served this country well, and she responded to that, that was a moment. It is an emotional moment … That was a very healing moment for everybody.