FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Historic aircraft escorted a B-17 bomber before it dropped flowers over the Statue of Liberty in a public Memorial Day tribute to seven CIA employees killed in Afghanistan.
Two World War II aircraft from the American Airpower Museum on Long Island took off with the bomber and flew with it before breaking formation because of strong winds as the bomber approached a site in New York Harbor near where the World Trade Center stood.
Museum spokesman Gary Lewi said officials decided to honor the fallen CIA employees after it appeared no other Memorial Day commemoration in the country had been planned. Museum president Jeff Clyman said such a public acknowledgment is rare.
"The knowledge that seven CIA personnel were killed at the hands of a terrorist compels us to pause and remember these patriots who fully understood the mortal danger they faced and yet deliberately went into harm's way to protect our homeland and our lives," Clyman said in a statement.
A CIA spokeswoman said it was the only memorial to all seven the agency has been told about.
The seven CIA employees and a Jordanian intelligence officer were killed when a suicide bomber detonated explosives at a tightly secured CIA base in Khost province, a dangerous region southeast of the Afghan capital, Kabul.
The CIA had cultivated the bomber, a Jordanian doctor, in hopes of obtaining information about al-Qaida's second in command, but he turned out to be a double-agent.
President Barack Obama honored the seven at CIA headquarters in February at a memorial service that was closed to the media. The names of those killed have not been revealed, reflecting the confidentiality under which the CIA operates.
Michael J. Sulick, director of the National Clandestine Service of the CIA, and U.S. Rep. Steve Israel participated in the Memorial Day service.
Sulick spoke on a ramp filled with World War II aircraft before a crowd of about 250 people. He said, given his title, the idea of appearing in public was unusual but so was the loss of so many agents, so he made an exception.
"The CIA is deeply grateful to the museum for honoring our colleagues who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan while courageously serving our nation," Sulick said. "I'm honored to represent the agency at the Memorial Day event, which promises to be a fitting tribute to their strength and dedication."
The museum president's son, Major Scott Clyman, an F-16 fighter pilot who served in Afghanistan, presented Sulick with an American flag he carried aboard the fighter while serving in the area where the suicide bombing took place.