Pentagon chief attending arrival of 4 war dead

RANDALL CHASE, ROBERT BURNS, Associated Press
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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left, and Army Secretary John McHugh, right, watch an Army carry team move a transfer case containing the remains of Pfc. Cody J. Patterson Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013 at Dover Air Force Base, Del. According to the Department of Defense, Patterson, 24, of Philomath, Ore., died Oct. 6, 2013 in Zhari district, Afghanistan of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left, and Army Secretary John McHugh, right, watch an Army carry team move a transfer case containing the remains of Pfc. Cody J. Patterson Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013 at Dover Air Force Base, Del. According to the Department of Defense, Patterson, 24, of Philomath, Ore., died Oct. 6, 2013 in Zhari district, Afghanistan of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel traveled to Dover Air Force Base on Wednesday for the arrival of the remains of four U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Joining Hagel on the trip from Washington were Army Secretary John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno.

The remains of every U.S. military member killed overseas are flown to Dover for processing. Family members often attend the arrivals, but high-ranking Pentagon officials usually do not.

Hagel’s trip to Delaware came amid congressional criticism over the suspension of $100,000 death benefit payments to families of fallen soldiers, which the Pentagon blames on the government shutdown.

The family of 24-year-old Pfc. Cody Patterson of Oregon allowed members of the media to witness the return of his remains Wednesday.

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Burns reported from Washington.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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