DOVER, Del. (AP) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel traveled to Dover Air Force Base on Wednesday for the arrival of the remains of four U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan, including one soldier from Oregon.
Joining Hagel on the trip from Washington were Army Secretary John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno.
The remains of every U.S. military member killed overseas are flown to Dover for processing. Family members often attend the arrivals, but high-ranking Pentagon officials usually do not.
The four soldiers killed Sunday are Pfc. Cody J. Patterson, 24, of Philomath, Ore.; 1st Lt. Jennifer M. Moreno, 25, of San Diego, Calif.; Sgt. Patrick C. Hawkins, 25, of Carlisle, Pa. and Sgt. Joseph M. Peters, 24, of Springfield, Mo.
In a statement Tuesday, U.S. Army Special Operations Command said Hawkins and Patterson were members of the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and Peters was a special agent assigned to the 286th Military Police Detachment.
Moreno was working with the other three on a joint special operations task force in southern Afghanistan as a cultural support officer. She was assigned to Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
The four soldiers were on a combat mission to stop a suicide-bomber who was planning an attack, according to Lt. Col. Brian DeSantis, a spokesman for the 75th Ranger Regiment. They were killed during an improvised explosive device attack.
Patterson’s family allowed members of the media to witness the return of his remains Wednesday.
"The family of Cody Patterson is proud of his service to his country, his bravery, and his sacrifice. There are not enough words to express the depth of our heartbreak over his tragic loss. We will feel his absence forever," his family said in a statement.
"Cody was a small town boy with a large extended family and deep ties to his hometown and surrounding community. He will be missed and remembered by so many for his sense of humor, compassion, and strength."
Read more: Pfc. Patterson “was the poster child for the Ranger regiment”
Charity will front money for death benefit payments
The Obama administration says it has worked out a solution to allow the families of fallen military members to receive death benefits during the government shutdown.
Hagel said the Fisher House Foundation has agreed to make the payments from its own funds. At the end of the shutdown, the Defense Department will reimburse the foundation for the costs it has incurred.
The White House said earlier Wednesday that President Barack Obama was "disturbed" to learn that families of fallen soldiers were not receiving death benefits. The Defense Department typically pays families about $100,000 within three days of a soldier's death, but officials say the shutdown was preventing those benefits from being paid.
The Fisher House Foundation is a charity organization that works with veterans and military families.
The House also passed legislation on Wednesday to restore the death benefits, although it's not clear if that legislation will proceed in the Senate now that the charity is covering the payments.