Trump salute to SEAL widow came after criticizing generals for fatal raid

Ryan Owens tribute
Ryan Owens tribute 02:21

THE PENTAGON -- Rarely has someone struggled so hard and so publicly to keep it together as Carryn Owens, widow of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens.

Trump honors slain Navy SEAL 04:01

For one minute and 38 seconds, one of the longest standing ovations in memory, she fought back tears and looked heavenward, apparently speaking to her late husband.

VP Pence on revised travel ban 08:21

“Ryan is looking down right now and he’s very happy because I think he just broke a record,” President Trump said after the ovation during his Tuesday address to a joint session of Congress.

Upset that her father-in-law had publicly questioned the need for the operation in which her husband was killed, Carryn Owens put a heartbroken face on the controversial commando raid against an al Qaeda stronghold in Yemen.

Mr. Trump approved the operation after barely a week in office. But he subsequently tried to distance himself from it. The commander in chief put the onus on his military advisers, describing it as a piece of unfinished business left over from the Obama administration.

“Well, this was a mission that was started before I got here,” Me Trump said in an interview Tuesday on FOX News. “They came to see me and 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 would, I believe, and they lost Ryan.”

Quesions over Yemen raid 02:09

“He was killed in the initial exchange that took place on the objective,” said Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East.

Votel monitored the raid in real time as Owens was fatally wounded, a medevac aircraft crash-landed and an air strike killed some two dozen civilians -- all in an effort to capture cell phones, laptops and hard drives that contained intelligence on the al Qaeda network in Yemen.

“We accomplished the mission we went there for. We certainly paid a heavy price for this,” he said.

And nowhere was that price more evident than on the face of Carryn Owens Tuesday night before a packed House chamber and a national television audience.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.