Staff Sgt. Mark R. De Alencar had just been brought back to the US in a flag-drapped casket from Afghanistan days earlier. The member of the 7th Special Forces group was killed on April 8, the first American killed in combat in Afghanistan this year, according to a tally kept by iCasualties.
“On April 10th, we went to Dover Air Force Base to welcome my husband back home with our whole family, but this time it was not a celebration,” De Alencar told CNN on Thursday night.
Two days after her husband came home, Trump called her as she sat with an Army casualty officer.
‘Men like in the movies’
De Alencar ‘s world changed on April 8. She had just returned home with her daughter when she told her to come downstairs. Her daughter had gone back to the car to retrieve her phone.
“My daughter … told me that I needed to come down and the men like in the movies were at our front door,” De Alencar said.
She had a bad feeling, and paced up and down the stairs before she finally went to the door of their home at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
When she got there, two Army men told her that her husband, Staff Sgt. Mark R. De Alencar, had been shot dead in Afghanistan the same day.
A total of 2,216 American soldiers have died in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion, according to the Pentagon. With fewer than 10,000 US troops left in the nation, mostly working as trainers, the war drags on in its 16th year.
“He celebrated his 37 birthday on April 1 and seven days after his birthday, he was dead,” Natasha De Alencar said.
De Alencar said she’ll never forget the moment she opened the door.
“The expression that they had was expressionless and the second thing that caught my eyes was the clean white gloves and the next thing I noticed was the paper in their hands.”
The men told her that an Army casualty assistance officer would come to her house.
Call from President Trump
Four days later, on April 12, De Alencar was with the casualty officer who was providing her family with emotional support.
The phone rang and when her casualty officer handed it to her, the person on the other end told her Trump wanted to talk to her.
“Natasha,” Trump said in the call filmed by her children and the video provided to CNN on Thursday night by De Alencar.
“I’m so sorry to hear about the whole situation. What a horrible thing, except that he’s an unbelievable hero and you know all the people that served with him are saying how incredible he was and just an amazing, an amazing guy,” Trump said.
De Alencar said Trump had researched her husband and talked to his friends as well, and was familiar with the awards he had received.
She described herself as a Democrat who does not “do politics.” As a father himself, she said, Trump appeared to understand the magnitude of her loss, and talked about her children, especially her oldest son, Deshaun, who plays college football at Missouri Valley College in Marshall.
“It became nothing about politics but a person who understood, and that is what he gave to us,” De Alencar said.
‘Their father was a great hero’
During the conversation, which lasted about five minutes, the President also talked about her four other children and told her to pass his regards to them.
“Tell them their father was a great hero that I respected,” Trump said.
Toward the end of the call, the President told De Alencar to take care of herself and extended an invitation to visit the White House. “If you’re around Washington, you come over and see me in the Oval Office,” he said.
De Alencar said it was important to record the call.
“All you got is memories and having the commander and chief call you for five minutes is an important memory,” she said.
Mark and Natasha De Alencar got married in 2008 after being together for 15 years. He served in the military for 10 years, and was the son of an Army veteran.
“He is the most amazing, humblest and very soft spoken,” she said. “He was a Ranger and a Green Beret. He made you want to do better. I am better mother and woman because of him.”
The couple have five children between them: Deshaun Osbourne, 20, Octavia Osbourne, 18, Rodrigo De Alencar 16, Tatiyana De Alencar 13, and Marcos De Alencar, 5.
Octavia Osbourne is a freshman at Johnston Wells in Miami, and her father promised her that he would be back for her graduation.
He did not make it, but 80 Green Berets showed up for the ceremony dressed up in their uniforms. De Alencar had been a Green Beret for five months when he was deployed to Afghanistan.
“He didn’t come home the way I wanted, but he did come home,” his wife said.
De Alencar declined to comment on the controversy surrounding Trump following the deaths of four US soldiers in Niger.
“I know they are hurting and they don’t know what the future holds because I know what they are going through,” she said. “That is the only thing I can comment on from my heart because that is what I know is true.”
Florida Democrat Rep. Frederica Wilson accused Trump this week of telling the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson — one of the US soldiers killed in Niger earlier this month — that “he knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt.”
Trump has said Wilson “totally fabricated” his response to the solder’s wife.