On Friday afternoon, the remains of Ambassador Chris Stevens, and diplomats Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were returned from overseas at Joint Air Force Base Andrews. In a solemn ceremony before their families, President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretaries Clinton and Panetta, and members of the "State Department family," four flag wrapped coffins were carried from the plane to awaiting hearses.
Each was given a dignified salute as "America the Beautiful" played. President Obama and Secretary Clinton each spoke movingly and with force on the importance of the diplomatic mission in Libya and around the world and for continued efforts to promote democracy and religious tolerance in the nations facing protests and violence in the Middle East.
Full remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Clintonat Transfer of Remains ceremony for Benghazi victims
Andrews Air Force Base
Thank you very much, Chaplain. Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Secretary Panetta, Ambassador Rice, Secretary Powell and Mrs. Powell, family members of the four patriots and heroes we bring home, members of the State Department family, ladies and gentlemen.
Today, we bring home four Americans who gave their lives for our country and our values. To the families of our fallen colleagues, I offer our most heartfelt condolences and deepest gratitude.
Sean Smith joined the State Department after six years in the Air Force. He was respected as an expert on technology by colleagues in Pretoria, Baghdad, Montreal and The Hague. He enrolled in correspondence courses at Penn State and had high hopes for the future.
Sean leaves behind a loving wife, Heather, two young children, Samantha and Nathan, and scores of grieving family, friends and colleagues. And that’s just in this world, because online, in the virtual world that Sean helped create, he is also being mourned by countless competitors, collaborators and gamers who shared his passion.
Tyrone Woods, known to most as Rone, spent two decades as a Navy SEAL, serving multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 2010, he protected American diplomatic personnel in dangerous posts from Central America to the Middle East.
He had the hands of a healer, as well as the arms of a warrior, earning distinction as a registered nurse and certified paramedic.
Our hearts go out to Tyrone’s wife Dorothy and his three sons, Tyrone Jr., Hunter and Kai -- born just a few months ago, along with his grieving family, friends and colleagues.
Glen Doherty, who went by Bub, was also a former SEAL and an experienced paramedic. He, too, died as he lived, serving his country and protecting his colleagues.
Glen deployed to some of the most dangerous places on Earth, including Iraq and Afghanistan, always putting his life on the line to safeguard other Americans. Our thoughts and prayers are with Glen’s father Bernard, his mother Barbara, his brother Gregory, his sister Kathleen, and their grieving families, friends and colleagues.
I was honored to know Ambassador Chris Stevens. I want to thank his parents and siblings who are here today for sharing Chris with us and with our country. What a wonderful gift you gave us.
Over his distinguished career in the foreign service, Chris won friends for the United States in farflung places. He made those people’s hopes his own.
During the revolution in Libya he risked his life to help protect the Libyan people from a tyrant. And he gave his life helping them build a better country.
People loved to work with Chris, and as he rose to through the ranks they loved to work for Chris. He was known not only for his courage but for his smile -- goofy but contagious; for his sense of fun and that California cool. In the days since the attack, so many Libyans, including the ambassador from Libya to the United States, who is with us today, have expressed their sorrow and solidarity.
One young woman, her head covered and her eyes haunted with sadness, held up a handwritten sign that said, “Thugs and killers don’t represent Benghazi nor Islam.”
The president of the Palestinian Authority who worked closely with Chris when he served in Jerusalem sent me a letter remembering his energy and integrity and deploring, and I quote, “an act of ugly terror.”
Many others from across the Middle East and North Africa have offered similar sentiments.
This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country. We’ve seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.
It is hard for the American people to make sense of that because it is senseless and it is totally unacceptable. The people of Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia did not trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob. Reasonable people and responsible leaders in these countries need to do everything they can to restore security and hold accountable those behind these violent acts. And we will, under the president’s leadership, keep taking steps to protect our personnel around the world.
There will be more difficult days ahead, but it is important that we don’t lose sight of the fundamental fact that America must keep leading the world. We owe it to those four men to continue the long, hard work of diplomacy.
I am enormously proud of the men and women of the State Department. I’m proud of all those across our government, civilian and military alike, who represent America abroad. They help make the United States the greatest force for peace, progress and human dignity the world has ever known. If the last few days teach us anything, let it be this, that 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.
So we will wipe away our tears, stiffen our spines, and face the future undaunted. And we will do it together, protecting and helping one another just like Sean, Tyrone, Glen and Chris always did. May God bless them and grant their families peace and solace.
And may God continue to bless the United States of America.
And now, let me have the great honor of introducing someone who came to the State Department earlier this week to grieve with us. He well understands and values the work that these men were doing for our country, the president of the United States.
Full remarks by President Obama at Transfer of Remains ceremony for Benghazi victims
Andrews Air Force Base
Scripture teaches us “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Glen Doherty never shied from adventure. He believed that, in his life, he could make a difference -- a calling he fulfilled as a Navy SEAL. He served with distinction in Iraq and worked in Afghanistan. And there, in Benghazi, as he tended to others, he laid down his life, loyal as always, protecting his friends. Today, Glen is home.
Tyrone Woods devoted 20 years of his life to the SEALs -- the consummate “quiet professional.” At the Salty Frog Bar, they might not have known, but “Rone” also served in Iraq and Afghanistan. And there, in Benghazi, he was far from Dorothy and Tyrone Jr., Hunter and little Kai. And he laid down his life, as he would have for them, protecting his friends. And today, Rone is home.
Sean Smith, it seems, lived to serve -- first, in the Air Force, then, with you at the State Department. He knew the perils of this calling from his time in Baghdad. And there, in Benghazi, far from home, he surely thought of Heather and Samantha and Nathan. And he laid down his life in service to us all. Today, Sean is home.
Chris Stevens was everything America could want in an ambassador, as the whole country has come to see -- how he first went to the region as a young man in the Peace Corps, how during the revolution, he arrived in Libya on that cargo ship, how he believed in Libya and its people and how they loved him back. And there, in Benghazi, he laid down his life for his friends -- Libyan and American -- and for us all. Today, Chris is home.
Four Americans, four patriots -- they loved this country and they chose to serve it, and served it well. They had a mission and they believed in it. 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 can leave this world a little better than before. That’s who they were and that’s who we are. And if we want to truly honor their memory, that’s who we must always be.
I know that this awful loss, the terrible images of recent days, the pictures we’re seeing again today, have caused some to question this work. And there is no doubt these are difficult days. In moments such as this -- so much anger and violence --even the most hopeful among us must wonder.
But amid all of the images of this week, I also think of the Libyans who took to the streets with homemade signs expressing their gratitude to an American who believed in what we could achieve together. I think of the man in Benghazi with his sign in English, a message he wanted all of us to hear that said, "Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans. Chris Stevens was a friend."
That’s the message these four patriots sent. That’s the message that each of you sends every day -- civilians, military -- to people in every corner of the world, that America is a friend, and that we care not just about our own country, not just about our own interests, but about theirs; that even as voices of suspicion and mistrust seek to divide countries and cultures from one another, the United States of America will never retreat from the world. We will never stop working for the dignity and freedom that every person deserves, whatever their creed, whatever their faith.
That’s the essence of American leadership. That’s the spirit that sets us apart from other nations. This was their work in Benghazi, and this is the work we will carry on.
To you -- their families and colleagues -- to all Americans, know this: Their sacrifice will never be forgotten. We will bring to justice those who took them from us. We will stand fast against the violence on our diplomatic missions. We will continue to do everything in our power to protect Americans serving overseas, whether that means increasing security at our diplomatic posts, working with host countries, which have an obligation to provide security, and making it clear that justice will come to those who harm Americans.
Most of all, even in our grief, we will be resolute. For we are Americans, and we hold our head high knowing that because of these patriots -- because of you -- this country that we love will always shine as a light unto the world.
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
The flag they served under now carries them home. May God bless the memory of these men who laid down their lives for us all. May God watch over your families and all who loved them. And may God bless these United States of America.