Mike Pence and his wife Karen paid tribute to five US soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Egypt last week as their bodies arrived back on American soil Monday night.
The Pences stood alongside acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller with their hands over their hearts as five coffins arrived at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.
The coffins carried the remains of Cpt. Seth Vernon Vandekamp, 31, CWO Dallas Gearld Garza, 34, 27-year-old CWO Marwan Sameh Ghabour, Staff Sgt. Kyle Robert McKee, 35, and 23-year-old Sgt. Cain Sherman.
Mike Pence, wife Karen (pictured behind him), and acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller (right) paid tribute as bodies of five US troops killed in a helicopter crash arrived home
Flag-draped coffins carrying the five dead servicemen arrived at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, late Monday night aboard a Boeing C-17 transport plane
The five were killed on Thursday last week when their Black Hawk helicopter suffered a ‘technical issue’ during a routine peacekeeping mission on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula
The five were killed when their Black Hawk helicopter suffered a ‘technical issue’ during a routine peacekeeping mission on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Thursday.
Also killed were Sgt. Maj. Michaela Ticha, from the Czech Republic, and Lieutenant-Colonel Sébastien Botta, of France.
A sixth US serviceman was badly wounded, and is currently being treated at a hospital in Israel.
The soldiers were part of the Multinational Force and Observers, an independent force that monitors a four-decades-old peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.
Thirteen countries contribute troops to the peacekeeping force, with the United States making up the largest contingent.
Their duties include monitoring troop levels along the border and ensuring freedom of navigation through the Strait of Tiran, which leads from the Red Sea into the Gulf of Aqaba.
The crash happened near the resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh, a popular location for tourists that sits at the mouth of the gulf.
Mike Pence, wife Karen, Secretary Miller, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley and other dignitaries salute as one of the coffins is offloaded
The coffins are loaded into a van at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, on Monday night
Troops based at Dover Air Force base salute as the van doors are closed
A prayer was said for the killed servicemen before Pence and the other attendees boarded the transport plane, back to Washington
A spokesman for the MFO said the cause of the crash is still under investigation, but there were no signs of an attack. ISIS is active in the Sinai Peninsula.
The Czech military later gave the cause as a ‘technical issue.’
Staff Sgt. McKee had served as a crew chief in Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea, and was the father of two boys aged 11 and three.
His wife, Nikki, is due to deliver their daughter ‘at any time,’ said McKee’s father, Steve McKee.
Because of the pandemic, Kyle McKee was unable to be with his wife for the birth, and remained on duty in Egypt, his father said.
The MFO’s total contingent of around 1,150 military personnel also includes 275 from Colombia, 55 from Canada, and dozens from European countries including Italy and the Czech Republic.
In 2015, six of the peacekeepers were wounded by a roadside bomb, and some governments have previously voiced fears about remote and vulnerable outposts.
Small-scale attacks sometimes occur in the north of the peninsula, and Israel has previously warned that removing MFO troops would make insurgents ‘more jihadi’.
The MFO was created to monitor the demilitarization of Sinai after the historic peace deal was signed at Camp David 41 years ago.
Egypt’s then-president Anwar Sadat, who signed the accords, was assassinated in 1981 by radicals opposed to the deal.
Staff Sgt. Kyle Robert McKee, 35, of Painesville, Ohio (left), and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dallas Gerald Garza, 34, of Fayetteville, N.C. (right), were among five U.S. soldiers killed Thursday in a helicopter crash in Egypt
Capt. Seth Vernon Vandekamp, 31, of Katy, Tex. (left), and Sgt. Jeremy Cain Sherman, 23, of Watseka, Ill. (right), were among five U.S. soldiers killed Thursday in a helicopter crash in Egypt
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Marwan Sameh Ghabour, 27, of Marlborough, Mass., was among five U.S. soldiers killed Thursday in a helicopter crash in Egypt
The UH-60 Black Hawk was on a reconnaissance mission Thursday near Sharm el-Sheikh in Sinai peninsula when it crashed