ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md. - Henderson resident and former Navy SEAL Tyrone S. Woods and three other Americans killed in an attack on a U.S. Consulate in Libya returned home Friday, their coffins carried by Marines in a procession accompanied by a military band that played "Nearer My God to Thee."
President Barack Obama led the ceremony, recalling their lives in personal terms and declaring the United States will never pull back on its principles or "retreat from the world."
"Their sacrifice will never be forgotten," Obama said as four flag-draped cases rested near him. He had come to witness the return of those slain in the assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission. Among the dead was U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Obama described Woods, 41, as a "quiet, consummate professional," and referred to patrons at The Salty Frog, a bar in California's Imperial Beach that Woods had owned until recently.
"They might not have known, but 'Rone' also served in Iraq and Afghanistan. And there, in Benghazi, he was far from Dorothy and Tyrone Jr., Hunter and little Kai," Obama said, referring to Wood's wife and young son and to two teenage sons from a previous marriage.
"And he laid down his life, as he would have for them, protecting his friends. And today, Rone is home," Obama said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Woods had protected U.S. diplomatic personnel in posts from Central America to the Middle East since 2010.
"He had the hands of a healer as well as the arms of a warrior," Clinton said.
Woods, a native of Portland, Ore., enlisted in the Navy after high school in 1990 and was attached to SEAL units on the West Coast. He served multiple tours in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and received a Bronze Star Medal for valor in combat, according to Navy records. He was a registered nurse and paramedic.
He had moved to Henderson from California in April with Dorothy, a dentist from La Jolla, Calif., according to his neighbors on Freshly Brewed Court in Henderson. They said she gave birth to a son, Kai, before Woods left earlier this year for his foreign service assignment in Libya as a private security contractor.
In the heat of a presidential election year, the scene at Andrews was a reminder of the danger facing Americans in diplomatic and military service every day and of the turmoil in an incendiary region of the world.
Always in the background, campaign politics gave way to a sense of sheer loss. Clinton's voice broke as she spoke before the president, and she appeared to be fighting tears as she listened to him.
In addition to Woods and Stevens, the ceremony honored two other Americans killed in Benghazi:
■ Sean Smith, an Air Force veteran who worked as an information management specialist for the State Department.
■ Glen A. Doherty, a former Navy SEAL who worked for a private security firm and was protecting the consulate in Benghazi.
"They knew the danger, and they accepted it," Obama said. "They didn't simply embrace the American ideal. They lived it."
The transfer of remains came three days after an attack on the consulate, one of a series of assaults on U.S. outposts in Muslim countries that U.S. officials blame on an anti-Muslim video made in the United States.
Clinton said the rage and violence aimed at U.S. missions was prompted by "an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with."
The president met privately with family members of the fallen before stepping into a hangar at this base he knows well, home to Air Force One.
The images of burning flags, breached embassies and smoldering cars have shocked the nation.
The deaths on Tuesday, the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and the anti-U.S. sentiment behind them underscored a foreign policy paradox for Obama. Many of the protests in the Arab world were in countries that underwent Obama-backed revolutions during the Arab Spring.
"The people of Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia did not trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of the mob," Clinton said. "Reasonable people and responsible leaders in these countries need to do everything they can to restore security and hold accountable those behind these violent acts."
Review-Journal writer Keith Rogers contributed to this report.