(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden on Friday attended the dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base of the three U.S. Army reservists killed Sunday in a drone strike in Jordan.
Accompanying him were first lady Jill Biden, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. CQ Brown and other top military officials.
At the beginning of the solemn movement, Biden, the first lady and other military officials walked up to the plane and stood with their heads bowed down as a chaplain offered prayers.
With a dreary gray sky above, Biden stood as the transfer cases containing the remains of the three U.S. Army reservists were slowly taken out of a plane one at a time.
The first lady appeared teary-eyed and Biden emotional with his head bowed and at times with his eyes closed, looking up to place his hand on his heart as the cases were brought out.
Each transfer case was draped in the American flag and then placed inside a black vehicle as fellow service members saluted to pay final respects before the car was driven way.
The families of the fallen watched the solemn event from a small area out of view from the cameras, where seats were arranged for them.
The Bidens met with the families privately before receiving the remains, the White House said.
The Pentagon announced on Monday that Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, 46, of Carrollton, Georgia; Spc. Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, of Waycross, Georgia; and Spc. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23, of Savannah, Georgia, were killed in a drone attack over the weekend on the U.S. base in Jordan near the border with Syria and Iraq.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby confirmed that Biden had spoken with families of the fallen.
“He expressed to them how proud we all are of their service, how we mourn and feel sorrow over their loss, made sure that those families knew that, not only was that service and sacrifice, going to be honored and respected, but that they would continue to get the support that they need as they work through what no family wants to have to go through,” he said.
Kirby said that during those phone calls Biden gauged the families’ feelings about his attending the dignified transfer at Dover.
In a phone call with the parents of Spc. Sanders, Biden informed them of Sanders being posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant and sought their permission to attend the dignified transfer.
Hearing the news of the promotion left Shawn Sanders and Oneida Oliver-Sanders in tears.
“With your permission, I’d like to be there with you if that’s OK,” Biden is heard asking on the call. “We would love for you to be there. Sir we would be honored,” they told him.
“All of them supported his presence there and so the president will be going to the dignified transfer on Friday,” Kirby said.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder announced that both Kennedy Sanders and Breonna Moffett had been posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant.
Deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton said Thursday that it is protocol for the president to ask Gold Star families for their permission to attend a dignified transfer.
This was Biden’s second time attending the solemn occasion since taking office.
He last attended a dignified transfer in August 2021 to receive the remains of service members killed in the Kabul airport bombing in Afghanistan.
ABC News’ Justin Gomez contributed to this report.
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