America’s political leaders expressed sadness Saturday over the deaths of 31 American servicemen who were aboard a helicopter shot down in eastern Afghanistan.
Among the dead are at least 20 Navy SEALs from SEAL Team Six, the unit that carried out the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan earlier this year, sources informed the Associated Press.
President Obama said in a statement: “Their deaths are a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices made by the men and women of our military and their families.”
“At this difficult hour,” Obama declared, “all Americans are united in support of our men and women in uniform who serve so that we can live in freedom and security.”.
Speaker of the House John Boehner said in a statement, “On this darkest day of a dark conflict, our nation mourns the tragic loss of these courageous Americans, who gave their lives for the cause of freedom. We grieve with the families of all of the fallen, and pray they may find peace.”
“We honor their sacrifice,” Boehner continued, “by rededicating ourselves to the task of securing the nation for which they and so many others have fought and died. God rest their souls.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, both GOP presidential hopefuls, also released statements on the deadly helicopter crash. (A Tough Year: Karzai’s half brother assassinated in southern Afghanistan)
“Our hearts are filled with sorrow for the families of the American soldiers who perished in the downing of a helicopter in Afghanistan,” Romney said. “The memory of their loss will always invoke in us a deep appreciation for the sacrifices that have been given in this war to protect the liberty and freedom of us all.”
On behalf of himself and his wife, Huntsman said: “Mary Kaye and I want to express our deepest sympathy to the families of the 31 special operation troops who lost their lives in Afghanistan. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. We are forever indebted to these troops who fought for their country so admirably. I am awed by their bravery and we all must strive to live up to their sacrifice.”
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for downing the Chinook transport helicopter.