William Owens (Navy SEAL)
March 5, 1980|
Peoria, Illinois, U.S.
January 29, 2017 (aged 36)|
Al Bayda Governorate, Yemen
|Years of service||1998–2017|
|Rank||Senior chief petty officer (posthumously)|
|Unit||U.S. Navy SEALs|
William Ryan Owens (March 5, 1980 – January 29, 2017) was a decorated United States Navy SEAL senior chief petty officer. He died in the Yakla raid in Yemen, making him the first American to die in combat under the Trump administration.
Owens was born on March 5, 1980 in Peoria, Illinois. He grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Chillicothe, Illinois. According to the Miami Herald, his parents worked at the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, where his father was a policeman and his mother was a detective. Owens attended Illinois Valley Central High School and graduated in 1998.
Owens joined the United States Navy on August 24, 1998. He served in the Office of Naval Intelligence in Suitland, Maryland, and joined the Navy SEALs in 2002 after graduating from Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) Training class 239. He was on five tours of duty during the course of his career as a Navy SEAL. He became a chief petty officer in 2009, and he was promoted to senior chief petty officer a week after his death. CNN reported that during these tours, he helped rescue comrades who were pinned down and wounded; and guided in MEDEVAC choppers while under fire.
CNN reported that Owens was awarded the Silver Star (posthumously) for actions during a three-day battle in Somalia in July 2015, in which Owens led a 12-man team alongside African forces against 400 al Qaeda militants. his citation states that he was ambushed with "small arms, machine guns, anti-aircraft guns, rocket propelled grenades, mortars, and improvised explosive devices" and that he "repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire," helping eventually secure the town that had been under militant control for 10 years.
In addition, Owens was the recipient of two Bronze Star Medals, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, the Achievement Medal, the Commendation Medal, the Sea Service Ribbon, and three Presidential Unit Citations.
Owens died of wounds as a result of the Yakla raid, a U.S.-led Special Operations Forces attack in Al Bayda province in central Yemen, a terrorism-related mission during the Yemeni Civil War, on January 29, 2017. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery
Tributes and controversy
On hearing of his death, Rear Admiral Timothy Szymanski, Commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, called Owens "an exceptional SEAL—an experienced warrior and a highly respected teammate who served silently, nobly and bravely through several combat deployments." He went on to express that "Ryan's legacy strengthens our own resolve and commitment to this crucial fight. We hope his family can find comfort in the love and support of Family, Friends and Teammates." President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump paid their respects on the arrival of Owens' remains at the Dover Air Force Base on February 1, 2017. President Trump said, "My deepest thoughts and humblest prayers are with the family of this fallen service member."
On February 27, 2017, in an interview with Fox News, President Trump said: "This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something that was, you know, just they wanted to do. They came to see me. They explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected. My generals are the most respected that we've had in many decades I believe. And they lost Ryan." President Trump paid tribute to Owens during his address to a joint session of Congress on February 28, 2017, saying, "Ryan's legacy is etched into eternity."
Owens' father, William Owens, a military veteran, refused to meet with President Trump and asked for an investigation into his son's death. He stated: "I didn't want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn't let me talk to him [Trump]." He also criticized Trump for refusing to order an investigation, saying: "Don't hide behind my son's death to prevent an investigation."
Owens had become friends with San Francisco Giants pitcher Javier Lopez and other Giants players during a spring training visit. Owens' family collectively threw out the first pitch before the Giants' 2017 home opener. Javier Lopez described Owens as "his counselor".
- "Father Of Navy SEAL Killed In Yemen Raid Has Harsh Words For Trump : The Two-Way". NPR.org. Retrieved 2017-03-02.
- Gregory, Ted (February 8, 2017). "Navy SEAL From Peoria Killed in Yemen Recalled for His Drive, Humor". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
- MH Staff (February 3, 2017). "Fort Lauderdale Police: SEAL Killed in Yemen was Son of Detective". Miami Herald. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
- MT Staff (January 29, 2017). "Chief Petty Officer William "Ryan" Owens". Military Times. Retrieved February 8, 2017 – via TheFallen.MilitaryTimes.com.
- "Exclusive: Inside the rarely-acknowledged missions of two Navy SEALs killed in action". CNN. 13 June 2017.
- Trib Staff (February 1, 2017). "Trump Makes Unannounced Trip to Honor Fallen Navy SEAL". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
- Gal Perl Finkel, A NEW STRATEGY AGAINST ISIS, The Jerusalem Post, March 7, 2017.
- Schmitt, Eric & Sanger, David E. (February 1, 2017). "Questions Cloud U.S. Raid on Qaeda Branch in Yemen". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
- Mabeus, Courtney (2017-02-15). "Navy SEAL who died in Yemen to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery next week | Local Military". Pilotonline.com. Retrieved 2017-03-02.
- Eli Watkins (2017-02-28). "Trump on generals in Yemen raid: They 'lost' Navy SEAL". CNN. Retrieved 2017-10-16.
- "'Ryan's legacy is etched into eternity': Trump lauds Navy SEAL killed in Yemen raid". Business Insider. 2016-03-31. Retrieved 2017-03-02.
- "San Francisco Giants Honor Fallen Navy SEAL In Opening Day Ceremony". CBS SF. 2017-04-10. Retrieved 2017-10-17.