Biden Visits Dover Air Force Base to Pay Respects to U.S. Soldiers Killed in Kabul Attack

President Joe Biden on Sunday visited Dover Air Force Base for the dignified transfer of the 13 American service members killed in Thursday's Kabul airport attack.

The president and first lady Jill Biden met with the families of those killed on Sunday morning before attending the solemn transfer of the service members' bodies back to American soil. It marked Biden's first presidential visit to pay respects to fallen soldiers at the Delaware Air Force base, which serves as the initial transit place for U.S. service members killed overseas.

The Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations, responsible for the return of remains from military theaters overseas, told CNN that the transfer is not a "ceremony"—but rather "a solemn movement of the transfer case by a carry team composed of military personnel from the fallen member's respective service."

On Sunday, Biden could be seen standing from the base tarmac as the flag-draped cases were carried from a military cargo plane. Each case was carried individually from the plane and placed into a vehicle, as family members, loved ones and fellow service members watched in silence.

After the remains are transferred from the plane, they are driven to the base mortuary, which is the largest in the country. From there, they are prepared for burial and transferred onward.

The U.S. soldiers, along with over 170 Afghans, were killed in a suicide bombing outside of Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport as service members were processing individuals for evacuation. The blast led to the first U.S. military casualties in Afghanistan in over a year and marked the deadliest incident there in 10 years.

On Saturday, the Department of Defense released the names of the 13 service members killed in the attack. They included 11 members of the U.S Marine Corps, one member of the Army, and one member of the Navy.

The soldiers came from across the country — from California to Wyoming to Tennessee — and had an average age of just over 22 years old, with several as young as 20.

They included 31-year-old Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, who was on his third tour in Afghanistan—along with 20-year-old Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, who was transferred to Afghanistan from his first deployment in Jordan.

Twenty-year-old Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, who was recently married and a soon-to-be father, was in Afghanistan on his very first deployment. And less than a week before the attack, fallen Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee posted a photo on social media holding a child in Kabul, with the caption: "I love my job."

"The 13 service members that we lost were heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our highest American ideals and while saving the lives of others," Biden said in a statement on Saturday. "Their bravery and selflessness has enabled more than 117,000 people at risk to reach safety thus far."

Dover Air Force Base Transfer
U.S. President Joe Biden attends the dignified transfer of the remains of a fallen service member at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware, August, 29, 2021, one of the 13 members of the US military killed in Afghanistan last week. SAUL LOEB / AFP/Getty Images

Shortly after the deadly blast, ISIS Khorasan (ISIS-K), a regional branch of the Islamic State terrorist organization, claimed responsibility for the attack.

On Friday evening, a U.S. military airstrike killed two Islamic State militants and injured another who were involved in planning and facilitating attacks against Americans. The operation occurred in the country's Nangahar Province along the country's east-central border, about 125 miles east of Kabul.

"I said we would go after the group responsible for the attack on our troops and innocent civilians in Kabul, and we have," Biden said in a statement Saturday, after pledging to "hunt down" and punish those who carried out the attack.