President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden visited Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Feb. 2, joining the grieving families of the three American service members killed in a recent drone attack in Jordan.
The Bidens were joined by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in attending the dignified transfer, as the remains of the deceased troops returned to U.S. soil. Such events to commemorate those killed in action have historically taken place in Dover.
All 3 service members were from the state of Georgia. Sgt. William Jerome Rivers of Carrollton, Spc. Kennedy Sanders of Waycross, and Spc. Breonna Moffett of Savannah were killed in an overnight assault on Jan. 28. Specialists Sanders and Moffett were posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant.
Iranian-backed terrorists were responsible for the deaths of the service members, as the United States recorded its first fatalities since terror groups intensified their attacks on U.S. troops in the region, amid escalating tension following Israel’s military operation against the Hamas terrorist organization.
“These service members embodied the very best of our nation: Unwavering in their bravery. Unflinching in their duty. Unbending in their commitment to our country—risking their own safety for the safety of their fellow Americans, and our allies and partners with whom we stand in the fight against terrorism,” President Biden said earlier this week. “It is a fight we will not cease.”
The president acknowledged Sgts. Rivers, Moffett, and Sanders by name on Feb. 1 during the National Prayer Breakfast at the Capitol, vowing to never forget their sacrifice to the nation.
“They risked it all,” he said.
Sgts. Rivers, Sanders, and Moffett served together in the same company of Army engineers that was based in Fort Moore, Ga. Despite hailing from different corners of Georgia, they maintained a close friendship. Sgts. Sanders and Moffett, in particular, were close friends who regularly participated in each other’s phone calls with their families back home.
Sgt. Moffett was killed just nine days after her 23rd birthday. Having joined the Army Reserves in 2019, she also worked for a home care provider, where she cooked, cleaned, and ran errands for people with disabilities.
Sgt. Sanders, 24, worked at a pharmacy while studying to become an X-ray technician, and coached children’s soccer and basketball. She had volunteered for the deployment because she wanted to see different parts of the world, her parents said.
Sgt. Rivers, 46, had previously served a nine-month tour in Iraq in 2018 after joining the Army Reserves in New Jersey in 2011.
Recent Defense Department statistics showed that no service members were killed as a result of hostile action in 2022. The previous year, 13 service members—11 Marines, one sailor, and one soldier—were killed by a suicide bomber during the fall of Kabul in Afghanistan, while nine service members were killed in 2020.
President Biden has attended two dignified transfers as president so far, with the first one in Aug. 2021 following the killing of the thirteen service members in Kabul. Prior to that, he attended a dignified transfer for two U.S. soldiers killed in a suicide blast at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan in 2016, and one as a U.S. Senator in 2008 by request of the victim’s family and by permission of the Pentagon.
Earlier this week, the U.S. government confirmed that the drone attack that killed Sgts. Rivers, Moffett, and Sanders was carried out by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Iran-backed terrorists that includes the group Kataib Hezbollah.
The terrorist group was responsible for planning and orchestrating the attack on Tower 22, a secretive U.S. military stronghold, which also injured several dozen other U.S. service members.
The outpost serves as a reconnaissance facility for U.S. troops, allowing them to move in and out of neighboring Syria undetected.
On Jan. 11, two Navy SEALs also died during a mission to board an unflagged ship that was carrying illicit Iranian-made weapons to Yemen.
President Biden and White House officials have stressed that while the current aim is not to engage in a broader conflict with Iran, the response to the deadly assault would not amount to a mere “one-off.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.