Honoring DS Fallen: Seth Foti
The following is the first in a series of profiles about Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) employees, contractors,
military personnel, and host nation security personnel who lost their lives providing a secure environment for the
conduct of American diplomacy.
Currently, 137 individuals have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty throughout the Bureau’s 100-year
history. They are honored on the Diplomatic Security Memorial at DS headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. For more
information, visit www.dsmemorial.state.gov.
DS Diplomatic Courier Seth Foti receives
“We have lost a star,” said then-Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Director Peter Bergin during a funeral service for Diplomatic Courier Seth Foti, who died on August 23, 2000, along with 142 other passengers in the crash of Gulf Air flight 072 in the shallow waters north of Manama, Bahrain. He was the sixth courier to die in the line of duty for the U.S. Department of State.
Seth’s star was rising both career-wise and personally when his life tragically ended. The 31-year old Browntown, Virginia, native was recently married and making his first mission as a diplomatic courier for the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. With a Russian Studies degree from George Mason University, Seth had joined the U.S. Department of State as a diplomatic courier in 1999, having previously worked as a contractor at U.S. Embassy Moscow. He was also responsible for providing and delivering materials for a peace keeping force in Africa. Shortly before his death, he earned a Franklin Award for managing a shipment of 127 six-wheel trucks from Italy to Sierra Leone for a U.N. sponsored project.
“Seth was one of the new breed of couriers…a young, bright, energetic man who was willing to accept the dangers associated with a career in the U.S. Diplomatic Courier Service,” said then-U.S. Representative Benjamin Gilman in a statement before Congress honoring Seth Foti in September 2002. “The U.S. Diplomatic Couriers face hardship on a daily basis. Not everyone is qualified for such a highly-sought-after position in public service. Just a few of the challenges with which couriers contend include constant travel, traversing several time zones, long hours, solitary travel and flight delays. U.S. Diplomatic Couriers are integral in the work of the Foreign Service. These men and women deliver documents and materials that are vital to U.S. interest and foreign policy goals. It can be dangerous.”
Shortly after his death, Seth's supervisor, Mike Meeker, noted that “Seth Foti was such a dedicated colleague, professional in every respect. His professionalism was unmatched. He knew how to negotiate his way through the most difficult of airports. Always cheerful, charismatic, and well respected by his fellow couriers and those who served with him at our embassy in Bahrain. He loved his parents and stepdad and was so excited about his recent marriage.''
“Seth was such a breath of fresh air in the embassy--so kind and self-effacing, and easy to get along with,” recalled Joe Mussomeli who was deputy chief of mission at the Bahrain Embassy when Seth was posted there.
Being a diplomatic courier is how Seth met his wife, Anisha Goveas Foti, in June 1999. Anisha, a native of Bangalore, India, and a travel agent in Bahrain assigned to the travel office in the U.S. Embassy, handled the travel arrangements for the courier office. She and Seth saw each other frequently, fell in love, and married on June 3, 2000, only two months before his untimely death. Although Seth had filled out all of the documents to adjust the status of Anisha to permanent U.S. resident through her marriage to him, the process was not completed at the time of the airplane crash that took his life. Through the efforts of friends and colleagues, the U.S. Congress passed a private bill in September 2002, sponsored by Senator Ted Kennedy and Representative Tom Lantos, granting Anisha permanent U.S. residency status. President George W. Bush signed the bill two months later. Anisha, now a U.S. citizen, currently is an elementary school teacher in Virginia.
Seth and Anisha Goveas Foti at their wedding in Bangalore, India, on June 3, 2000. (Foti family photo)
"Seth was an extraordinarily bright, and charming person who loved to travel, have great adventures, and then tell hilarious tales about his experiences,” said Seth’s mother, Deyann Davis. "No one could make you laugh like Seth, and one of his most endearing qualities was that he could truly laugh at himself." In addition to his wife and mother, Seth left behind his father, Dominick, and his stepfather, Max.
In remembering Seth today, nearly 16 years after his death, former U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain Johnny Young spoke about his commitment to family and colleagues, and the value of his service to the U.S. Embassy in Manama. “When I first met Seth, I liked him instantly. He gave off that kind of vibe. I immediately summed him up as a winner. My sense was that he was a very special young man and that the embassy was fortunate in having him assigned to Bahrain.”
“He carried and presented himself in a very dignified, but informal way,” said the ambassador, noting that Seth was a good writer and speaker—and seemed headed for rapid advancement. “He possessed a ready smile and used it liberally to charm everyone he met. Because he was so cultured, interested in so many things, and loved languages and people, I constantly joked with him, calling him a closet political officer.”
“I had never met a courier like him. He was simply the best and represented himself, his service and his specialty with honor, dignity, and total professionalism. In the years that have passed since Seth’s death, I have yet to meet another officer in his field equal to him in terms of achievement and future potential. He simply had it all,” observed the ambassador.
His friend and colleague from the U.S. Department of State, Paul Poletes, now deputy chief of mission (DCM), U.S. Embassy Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, recalls that Seth was one of those rare individuals, a small handful he had known his entire life, who could make his day just by being around. “He made me and our small circle of friends feel more alive, and made us all feel better about ourselves,” said DCM Poletes. “Life was more fun when Seth was around. At Seth’s funeral, I told his father that I never thought it possible to laugh so much as when I was with Seth--he was that kind of person. Seth was also incredibly generous. I always knew that if I needed help or support, Seth would be there for me.”
Going back in time to 2000, during Seth’s memorial service, DSS Director Bergin summed up Seth Foti’s impact on future diplomatic couriers: “Seth’s memory will always shine brightly in our ranks, and he will be an example for generations of couriers to come.”
Diplomatic Courier Seth Foti, the intrepid traveler, is reading a local map to get his bearings during a visit to Prague, while living in Moscow during the mid-1990s. (Foti family photo)