VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – In the wake of her dramatic appearance in the crowd at President Donald Trump’s address before Congress, Carryn Owens, widow of the Navy SEAL killed in the raid on Yemen, is maintaining a low profile – as has her father-in-law, who jolted the White House by pointedly criticizing the raid that killed his son.
Since a story on his concerns about the raid – and refusal to meet with the president – appeared in Sunday’s Miami Herald, William Owens, a retired police officer living in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Fla., has rebuffed all interview requests.
Carryn Owens, whose appearance in the crowd at the president’s congressional speech electrified the audience and drew a sustained ovation, has not appeared publicly since. She has not said whether she shares any of her father-in-law’s concerns about the planning for the late January raid that killed her husband, William “Ryan” Owens, 36. The father-in-law has not discussed her appearance at Trump’s speech.
A mother of three, Carryn Weigand Owens grew up in the Washington, D.C., suburbs and graduated in 1995 from Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, Va. She was recruited to play soccer at the University of Virginia and lettered all four years, including her senior year, when she was team captain, according to the university’s alumni news site.
After college graduation she worked as a technical operations officer in one of the government’s intelligence divisions, a job that UVA’s alumni website described as “fighting the war on terror.” She and Owens wed in 2004 in Fort Myer, Va., an army base adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery that has served as a U.S. military post since the Civil War.
According to Navy records, Ryan Owens enlisted in 1998 and served in a West Coast special warfare unit from 2003 until 2007, when he was transferred to the SEALs’ East Coast unit, based at the Joint Expeditionary Base-Little Creek in Virginia Beach. The family bought a house in a remote section of the sprawling city, in a leafy subdivision built on land that was once primarily composed of strawberry farms and horse pastures.
Like the rest of the Hampton Roads region in the southeast corner of the state, the major employer in Virginia Beach is the U.S. military. In addition to the Little Creek base, Virginia Beach is also home to the Naval Air Station Oceana, the East Coast base of the Navy’s jet fleet. Most of the homes in the Owens family’s neighborhood display the American flag in the front yard.
Near the end of his Tuesday night speech before Congress, Trump told the crowd that “we are blessed” to be in the presence of the widow of the slain Navy SEAL.
“Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero – battling against terrorism and securing our nation.” The camera panned to Carryn Owens, seated next to Ivanka Trump. Owens initially remained seated as the crowd around her rose to its feet.
After the ovation subsided, Trump continued, concluding with: “Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity.” His widow looked skyward, tears streaming down her face, and the crowd roared.
The day after Carryn Owens broke down during the speech, her neighbors had closed ranks. Specific information about SEAL families – addresses, children and spouse’s names – is closely held information because of the worry of repercussions, especially since a SEAL team was credited with the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011. No one answered the door at the home.
Though in the after-school hours, the street was filled with people walking dogs, and kids shooting basketballs into sidewalk hoops, most neighbors were openly hostile to the presence of a reporter. A man who lives across the street but who did not want to be identified said, “We’re going to respect her privacy. When she’s ready to speak, she will.” He said he had watched Trump’s speech and thought he “did a good job.”
Another resident, who refused to give his name, said he had heard of Ryan Owens’ father’s call for an investigation and urged him to end it. “Nothing good is going to come out of that.”
This corner of Virginia is far more conservative than the Washington, D.C., suburbs where Carryn Owens grew up. Though Hillary Clinton won Virginia’s popular vote by more than 5 percentage points over Trump, she lost Virginia Beach – the largest city in the state – by 4 percentage points. Trump’s margin of victory in the precinct where the Owens family and their neighbors were assigned to vote was not close – he polled nearly 64 percent to Clinton’s 30 percent.
Owens was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Feb. 22.