Families of Slain US Soldiers Critical of President’s Conduct at Dignified Transfer Ceremony

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Joe Biden checks the time during the dignified transfer of the remains of a fallen service member at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware, on Aug. 29, 2021. Biden was put on blast by families of at least four of the thirteen slain soldiers, both for checking his watch and talking about his son Beau Biden, former Attorney General of Delaware, who died at age 46 from cancer in an attempt to relate his own grief to the families.
Joe Biden checks the time during the dignified transfer of the remains of a fallen service member at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware, on Aug. 29, 2021. Biden was put on blast by families of at least four of the thirteen slain soldiers, both for checking his watch and talking about his son Beau Biden, former Attorney General of Delaware, who died at age 46 from cancer, in an attempt to relate his own grief to the families. (Image: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Multiple families of the 13 U.S. soldiers who were killed in the Aug. 26 suicide bombing at Kabul Airport have publicly voiced criticism of President Joe Biden’s conduct during the dignified transfer of remains ceremony conducted at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Aug. 29 when the fallen service members returned to America for their funerals. 

The most contentiously outspoken is Shana Chappell, the mother of 20-year-old Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, who blasted Biden in an Aug. 30 Facebook post, where she said, “Remember i am the one who stood 5 inches from your face and was letting you know i would never get to hug my son again, hear his laugh and then you tried to interrupt me and give me your own sob story,” referring to President Biden speaking to several families about his own son, Beau Biden, who served in the military and died of cancer.

According to Wikipedia, Joseph Robinette “Beau” Biden III was born in 1969. Beau joined the National Guard in 2003, became a Major in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the 261st Signal Brigade, and was deployed to Iraq in 2008 where he served for a year while simultaneously acting as Delaware’s Attorney General, a term which spanned from 2007 to January of 2015.

Beau was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2010 and diagnosed with a severe brain cancer in 2013. He passed away from the disorder on May 30, 2015.

Military transfer teams carry the bodies of 11 of the 13 fallen soldiers who died in the ISIS-K/Taliban suicide bombings at Kabul Airport in Afghanistan on Aug. 26 upon their return to America at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Aug, 29, 2021.
Military transfer teams carry the bodies of 11 of the 13 fallen soldiers who died in the ISIS-K/Taliban suicide bombings at Kabul Airport in Afghanistan on Aug. 26 upon their return to America at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Aug, 29, 2021. (Image: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Chappell said rather bluntly that she told President Biden after he turned the topic towards Beau “that this isn’t about you so don’t make it about you!!!” Afterwards, she says Biden told her he was only trying to say he understood her feelings, an argument which Chappell rejected.

She continued: 

“[Biden] then rolled your f**ing eyes in your head like you were annoyed with me…i let you know that the only reason i was talking to you was out of respect for my son and that was the only reason why, i then proceeded to tell you again how you took my son away from me and how i will never get to hug him, kiss him, laugh with him again etc…

u turned to walk away and i let you know my sons blood was on your hands and you threw your hand up behind you as you walked away from me like you were saying “ ok whatever!!! You are not the president of the United States of America Biden!!!! [sic]”

In other Instagram posts reported by the New York Post, Chappell revealed herself as a supporter of former President Donald Trump who regards Biden as an illegitimate President.

The same day, Instagram disabled the mother’s account. Parent company Facebook reinstated the account on Aug. 31. In a statement, the company expressed their condolences to Chappell, stating the posts did not violate any policies and claimed that her account was disabled in error.

The family of another 20-year-old fallen soldier, Lance Corporal Rylee McCollum, told Fox on Aug. 31 that they rejected the invitation to meet with President Biden, saying they had “no desire.” However, Rylee’s sister, Cheyenne, decided to meet with the President alongside McCollum’s widow. 

Cheyenne said, “I was able to stand about 15 seconds of his fake, scripted apology and I had to walk away.”

When asked why, Cheyenne was paraphrased as saying, “That the president would not look at the family in the eye and spent the three-minute conversation talking about his late son, Beau Biden, rather than Rylee or the other 12 service members who perished last week in the ISIS-K attack near Kabul airport.”

Afghanistan’s former Vice President, Amrullah Saleh, said on Aug. 26 that ISIS-K is actually just an arm of the Taliban.

“There was not an ounce of sympathy looking at his face,” added Cheyenne.

Watching the clock

Some other family members that met with the President were critical of what was construed as an apparent expression of boredom. In some photos and videos taken during the dignified transfer ceremony, Biden is clearly seen looking at his wristwatch.

In an Aug. 30 report by Breitbart, CSPAN video is shown of the President, reportedly about 40 minutes into the ceremony, standing in the wind wearing a black mask while holding his hand on his chest to pay respects. Biden appears to close his eyes, yawn for several seconds, and then checks his wristwatch on his left hand before quickly putting his hands behind his back. 

Mark Schmitz, father of slain 20-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, shared a story similar to Shana Chappell’s with The Washington Post on Aug. 30 where he recounted President Biden talking about Beau Biden before Schmitz interrupted him with a photo of his dead son and 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…And take some time to learn their stories.”

In an Aug. 31 interview with Fox News, Schmitz also complained about the President’s conduct during the ceremony as he told the outlet he saw Biden check his watch at least four times, “I leaned into my son’s mother’s ear and I said ‘I swear to God if he checks his watch one more time’…I couldn’t look at him anymore after that.”

“Considering the time and why we were there, I found it to be the most disrespectful thing I’d ever seen,” Schmitz added.

The Post also noted Schmitz claimed an unidentified female family member of an additional service member screamed in grief across the tarmac at Joe Biden, “I hope you burn in hell! That was my brother!”

Schmitz said in response, “I can’t fault her for it. We all lost somebody.”

In an Aug. 30 interview, also with Fox News, Darin Hoover, father of 31-year-old slain Marine Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover Jr., said he made the decision not to meet with Biden precisely because of the President’s conduct during the dignified transfer ceremony.

Hoover’s rationale was that he claimed to have witnessed Joe Biden check his watch 13 times, each time a slain soldier’s body was removed from the airplane, “That didn’t happen just once. It 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 would look down at his watch on every last one, all 13, he looked down at his watch.”

“As a father, seeing that and the disrespect, and hearing from his former leaders, one of [Taylor’s] master sergeants said … that this was avoidable — that they left them over there: They had them over there and let them down, and we can’t have that. It can’t happen ever again.”

“We said absolutely not. We didn’t want to deal with him, we didn’t want him anywhere near us. We as a family decided that that was the way it was going to be,” said Hoover.

According to Daily Mail UK, Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked by Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich during an Aug. 31 press conference about both the wristwatch debacle and families feeling Biden’s apology was scripted.

Psaki only replied, “Well I would say his message to all of the family members, who were there, those who were not even in attendance, is that he is grateful to their sons and daughters, the sacrifice that they made to the country…That he knows firsthand what it’s like to lose a child and the fact no one can tell you anything, or say anything, that there’s no words that are going to fill that hole that is left by that.”

  • Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.