Some Gold Star families whose loved ones were killed during a terrorist attack last week in Kabul during the chaotic evacuations at Hamid Karzai International Airport have voiced their frustration and anger towards President Joe Biden after he met with them for the dignified transfers at Dover Air Force base.
Mark Schmitz, the father of Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, told the Washington Post he originally told the U.S. military he did not want to meet with Biden at Dover but later changed his mind:
"But by his own account, Schmitz glared hard at the president, so Biden spent more time looking at his ex-wife, repeatedly invoking his own son, Beau, who died six years ago.
"Schmitz did not want to hear about Beau, he wanted to talk about Jared. Eventually, the parents took out a photo to show to Biden. “I said, 'Don’t you ever forget that name. Don’t you ever forget that face. Don’t you ever forget the names of the other 12,' Schmitz said. 'And take some time to learn their stories.'
"Biden did not seem to like that, Schmitz recalled, and he bristled, offering a blunt response: 'I do know their stories.'
Schmitz said he did appreciate Biden put "plus 13" at the bottom of the card he carries that has the number of the U.S. service members who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It had to be one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do," Schmitz added. "You make some calls, here’s the aftereffect. It’s got to be difficult. I’m not saying it was easy at all. But you can’t run up and hug someone as if you had nothing to do with it. It’s not going to work that way when you’re commander in chief."
Schmitz further told the Post he did not appreciate Biden bringing up his son Beau, who served in the military but died of brain cancer because the situations were different.
"When he just kept talking about his son so much it was just — my interest was lost in that. I was more focused on my own son than what happened with him and his son," Schmitz said. "I’m not trying to insult the president, but it just didn’t seem that appropriate to spend that much time on his own son."
Schmitz was not the only Gold Star family member who took issue with Biden invoking his son. When he met with the pregnant widow of Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, "It struck the family as scripted and shallow, a conversation that lasted only a couple of minutes in 'total disregard to the loss of our Marine,' [sister] Roice said." McCollum's family said even during the meeting, Biden kept checking his watch.
Darin Hoover, father of slain Marine SSgt. Taylor Hoover, said Biden checked his watch after each casket was rolled off the plane during the dignified transfer ceremony.
"That didn’t happen just once," he alleged. "That happened on every single one that came out of that airplane. It happened on every single one of them. They would release the salute and he’d look down at his watch. On every last one. All 13—he looked down at his watch."