Standing in front of the American flag-draped caskets containing the bodies of the four Americans killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, with a full honor guard on hand, President Barack Obama praised the four for their patriotic service and the commitment to diplomacy on Friday.
"They didn't simply embrace the American ideal, the lived it," Obama said, "They embodied it, the courage and idealism, the fundamental American belief that we can leave this world a little better than before. That's who they were, and who we are."
In the transfer of remains ceremony, held at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, the bodies U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, information manager Sean Smith and former Navy SEALS Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods returned to the United States.
Obama also vowed to protect U.S. diplomatic personnel on foreign soil and to press foreign governments to hold those responsible for American deaths accountable.
Clinton, too, reiterated U.S. commitment to Libyan democracy. She said the country, which ousted long-time dictator Moammar Khaddafy last year, "did not trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob."
Stevens was inside the consulate in Benghazi Tuesday when a mob of gunmen fired upon the compound with rocket-propelled grenades, setting it ablaze.
A native of northern California, Stevens fell under the spell of the Middle East as a young man, according to George Scharffenberger, who served alongside him in the Peace Corps in Morocco.
"He just fell in love with Morocco and that part of the world, and I think it was the spark that shaped the rest of the career," said Scharffenberger.
Smith's formal posting was in the Hague, but he was on a temporary assignment to Libya when he was killed, Clinton said. She described him as a veteran of the Air Force with 10 years as an information management officer. His prior postings included Pretoria, Baghdad and Montreal.
Smith was also a renowned player of the online science-fiction game "Eve," where he went by the handle "Vile Rat," according to friends' Web postings. They described having online conversations with him in which he said he was providing IT services to the consulate and how during a tour in Baghdad he broke away from a gaming session when he heard gunfire.
Doherty spent his twenties working as a ski instructor and attending flight school before keeping a promise he had made to himself: that if he hadn't found a profession by the time he turned 30, he would join the Navy and become a SEAL.
A trained sniper and medical corpsman, Doherty served in both Iraq and Afghanistan during his seven years as a SEAL, before beginning work four years ago in private security.
"This is what he did for a living. He always knew the dangers, but he never talked about it,'' his sister Katie Quigly told the Boston Globe. "He's been going overseas since 9/11 — and he's always made it back."
Woods was a 41-year-old married father of three from Portland, Ore. His name was not released until Thursday, when his next of kin were notified of his death.
A government official contacted Woods' ex-wife, Patty So, to deliver the news early Thursday.
"It doesn't seem real," So, mother of Woods' 15- and 18-year-old sons, told NBC 7 San Diego.