The Defense Department announced Monday that the US Navy sailor killed during a raid on al-Qaida base in Yemen was from Peoria, Illinois. Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens died Jan 28 of wounds sustained during the raid. The Pentagon said Owens, 36, was assigned to an East Coast-based Special Warfare unit. Owens’ death is the first known US military combat casualty since President Donald Trump took the oath of office on Jan 20.
“My deepest thoughts and humblest prayers are with the family of this fallen service member,” Trump said when Owens’ death became known. Owens, a recipient of two bronze stars, Joint Service Commendation and an Afghanistan Campaign Medal among others, joined the Navy in 1998 and received his special warfare training in Coronado, California.
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Rear Admiral Tim Szymanski, the commander of Naval Special Warfare Command in Coronado, said Owens was “an exceptional SEAL” and highly respected, adding that he served “silently, nobly and bravely through several combat deployments.” Three other service members were wounded Sunday during the firefight with militants from al-Qaida. The raid left nearly 30 others dead, including an estimated 14 militants. A fourth US service member was injured when a military aircraft assisting in the mission nearby had a “hard landing.”
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis issued a statement Monday praising Owens for his service. “Ryan gave his full measure for our nation, and in performing his duty, he upheld the noblest standard of military service,” he said. “The United States would not long exist were it not for the selfless commitment of such warriors.” Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has exploited the chaos of Yemen’s civil war, seizing territory in the south and east when it began in 2014. A Saudi Arabian-led military coalition has been helping government forces battle the rebels.