Less than a month into Donald Trump's presidency, senior chief petty officer and Navy SEAL Ryan Owens was killed in action in Yemen. Since his death, Owens' loss has cast a shadow over the family who mourns him and the president who was his commander-in-chief. Trump has been outspoken about Owens' death, even recognizing Owens' widow in front of Congress on Tuesday, but Owens' father has refused to meet with Trump after his son's tragic death in the line of duty.
"I told them I didn't want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him," Bill Owens told The Miami Herald last week. After Ryan's death, Bill and the president both traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where Ryan's body was brought in the customary flag-draped casket. Upon hearing that Trump was en route, Owens told the chaplain he didn't want to see the commander-in-chief.
Rather than the president's sympathies, Owens wanted clarity.
The fallen SEAL's father did not want to meet the president, but his widow may feel differently. On Tuesday, Carryn Owens attended Trump's prime-time speech to a joint session of Congress. She sat next to Ivanka Trump and received a two-minute standing ovation in honor of her family's sacrifice.
"Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero — battling against terrorism and securing our nation," Trump said. "Ryan's legacy is etched into eternity." As the president spoke, Owens' wife, visibly tearful, looked toward the sky in a move seemingly made to acknowledge her husband.
The response from the audience to Carryn's emotion was a strong show of support. In his speech, Trump vowed strong support of his own for the military. Even still, Bill Owens' refusal to meet with Trump raises important questions about the administration's priorities. It's simply not enough for Trump to speak publicly about the military and its heroes, touting the country's strength and how he will make it even stronger. Rather, he must also be held accountable when things go wrong.