U.S. President Barack Obama says the sacrifices of Americans serving in harm's way are very much on his mind as he ponders America's war options in Afghanistan. Mr. Obama left Washington in the middle of the night to be on hand when the bodies of 18 recent casualties of the war came home.
The president has been seeking advice on Afghanistan from generals, diplomats and members of Congress.
But late Wednesday he sought a different guidance. He traveled to an Air Force base in the state of Delaware that is home to the largest military mortuary in the country. There, the president saluted the latest victims of the Afghan war and got a first-hand look at the human cost of the conflict.
He watched as their flag-draped coffins were unloaded from a cargo jet and he tried to console their families. Standing on the tarmac in the middle of the night, he honored their sacrifice.
The president kept his conversations and his thoughts private, returning to the White House a few hours before dawn.
But when reporters saw him later Thursday, before a meeting with Singapore's Minister Mentor and elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew, Mr. Obama appeared eager to talk about what he had seen.
"It was a sobering reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that our young men and women in uniform are engaging in every single day - not only our troops, but their families as well," said President Obama.
He was asked if his experience at Dover Air Force Base might influence his decision on Afghanistan.
"The burden that both our troops and our families bear in any wartime situation is going to bear on how I see these conflicts," said Mr. Obama. "And it is something that I think about each and every day."
On Friday, President Obama is scheduled to meet with the nation's top military officers to discuss next steps in Afghanistan. The top U.S. commander in the field, Army General Stanley McChrystal, wants a substantial number of additional troops. But so far, the White House has not embraced any course of action publicly, saying only that an immediate withdrawal is not an option.