Soon after taking office, President Donald Trump made his first military command and ordered a raid in Yemen that resulted in the deaths of civilians, including an 8-year-old girl and Chief Petty Officer William "Ryan" Owens.
"Almost everything that could go wrong did," the New York Times said about the raid, which was reportedly ordered without sufficient intelligence or preparation. But White House press secretary Sean Spicer stood by the operation's success, saying anyone who criticized it "does disservice to the life of Chief Ryan Owens."
That threat, however, won't stop Owens' father, Bill Owens, from challenging the president's decision.
— Miami Herald (@MiamiHerald) February 26, 2017
"Don't hide behind my son's death to prevent an investigation," Bill Owens said in an interview with the Miami Herald, attacking the White House's remarks.
"I want an investigation. ... The government owes my son an investigation."
The Navy SEAL's father, himself a veteran of the Navy and Army Reserves, said he had questions about the timeline leading up to the raid. "I know what the timeline is, and it bothers me a lot," Owens told the Herald.
That timeline has been in dispute. Though Spicer said the raid was previously approved by the Obama administration and they were simply waiting for a moonless night, Colin Kahl, a former national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, said this was not the case. In an interview with CNN, Kahl said Spicer's version of events was "fan fiction," explaining Obama had deferred any judgement about potential escalation in Yemen to the Trump administration.
— Kate Bolduan (@KateBolduan) February 13, 2017
To Owens, the sudden nature of the military's ground game in Yemen made little sense and raised more questions about his son's death.
"Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn't even barely a week into his administration? Why?" the elder Owens told the Herald. "For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen — everything was missiles and drones — because there was not a target worth one American life. Now, all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?"
Trump, along with daughter Ivanka, traveled to Dover Air Force Base when Owens' body was brought back to the U.S. to pay his respects to the family. Owens' father, however, refused to meet with the commander in chief.
"I told them I didn't want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn't let me talk to him," Owens said.
Though Owens told the Herald he did not vote for Trump, the grieving father says he's not making a political statement by speaking out. He is simply demanding answers on behalf of his son, a 36-year-old father of three young children who had long dreamed of becoming a SEAL.
"I think these are valid questions," Owens explained. "I don't want anybody to think I have an agenda, because I don't. I just want the truth."