US vice president honors Marines, sailors killed in Chattanooga attack
U.S. leaders paid tribute Saturday to the four Marines and the sailor killed last month in a lone gunman’s attack on military facilities here, vowing justice against violent extremists.
Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and other dignitaries joined families of the victims for a solemn memorial service a month after the July 16 attack in this river city flanked by the Appalachian mountains.
A sorrowful Biden eulogized the five in strikingly personal terms, alluding to the recent loss of his own son, Beau Biden.
“I wish I were not here. I have some sense of how hard it is for you to be here,” he told the families.
Likening their sons and husbands to biblical warriors, he said: “The men we honor today gave the same answer to Isaiah: Send me.”
America, he said, “Never kneels, never bends, never cowers, never stands down. (America) endures, responds, and we always overcome.”
FBI investigators say Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez acted alone, but authorities are unsure whether he was inspired by radical ideology or driven by mental illness as his family has suggested.
“The meaning of their killing is yet unclear, what combination of disturbed mind, violent extremism and hateful ideology was at work, we don’t know,” said Carter.
But he added: “The few who threaten or incite harm to Americans — violent extremists or terrorists wherever they are — very surely, no matter how long it takes, will come to feel the long arm and hard fist of justice.”
The Kuwaiti-born 24-year-old former engineering student was shot dead by police to end the rampage at two separate military facilities.
Before the memorial service in a basketball arena here, Biden and Carter met privately with the families of the victims — Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, 40, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, 35, Sgt. Carson Holmquist, 25, Navy logistics Spc. Randall Smith, 26, and Lance Cpl. Squire Wells, 21.
Several of them had served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and several left behind young wives and small children.
U.S. Navy officers pay their respects at the battlefield crosses for the fallen servicemen at a memorial for the five military servicemen killed in the July, 16 attacks on two military facilities, at McKenzie Arena in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Saturday, Aug. 15.