A Gold Star mother who met President Joe Biden on the Memorial Day following her son’s death from the terrorist attack at the Kabul airport said that Biden responded by suggesting she take a photo with him when she wept during their meeting.
Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Christian Knauss was killed when a bomber detonated a bomb at Kabul’s international airport on August 26, 2021, killing 13 American soldiers. His mother, Paula Knauss Selph, the executive director of the Respect and Remember Foundation, met Biden in the Oval Office at an event for Gold Star families in Washington, D.C. on Memorial Day 2022.
“There’s been a lot of grief, a lot of grief,” she told The Daily Mail. “There’s nothing like watching your child die in front of you, in front of the world.”
She recalled when she met Biden, he said, “I can understand if you’re angry.”
“I stood face-to-face with him, eyeball-to-eyeball. I began to weep,” she said, adding that she told him, “It should have never happened this way.”
“He stood there stoically,” she remembered. “Nothing out of his mouth except — well would you like to get a photo with me?”
Selph told Biden that the only picture she would take with him was if he stood with her at her son’s tombstone at Arlington National Cemetery. She said Biden answered, “I can’t do that because Secret Service won’t let me do that.”
“It’s a moral disgrace for a president not to have mercy on the people that he serves. It is a moral disgrace,” Selph said, adding that Biden thought the “sad occasion” was a “photo op’” rather an opportunity to comfort a grieving mother.
“He had the chance to make a difference for my child. On not making decisions and indecisions that cost him his life. And I do hold him accountable,” she concluded.
“Ryan, all of his life was quite certain he wanted to go in the armed forces,” Selph said of her son, who was a member of the JROTC cadet program before serving in the military. “And it is a pleasing thing to me. But throughout his life, he kept that focus. He was so disciplined. He was so smart. … He was protecting and giving us the opportunity for many people to live out the American dream. That’s what will long outlive all of us.”
The Respect and Remember Foundation says it has three goals: To encourage JROTC and ROTC Cadets with merit scholarships as they graduate and go directly into the military; to support active duty military stationed abroad with care packages and welcome home baskets and provide vacations for active military personnel and families, and to partner with veteran-led organizations connecting veterans together to help combat the high suicide rate among veterans and the adjustments to civilian life needed by veterans encouraging other veterans.