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Obama speaks at Fort Hood Memorial: 'Tragedy tears at wounds still raw'

Obama: Fort Hood Shooting Tears At Wounds Still Raw

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) - President Barack Obama returned to the grieving Army post Wednesday where he first took on the job as the nation's comforter five years ago, mourning with families and uniformed comrades of those killed during last week's Fort Hood shooting spree. "We somehow bear what seems unbearable," he declared.

It was yet another sad observance for a president who has had to deliver words of consolation across the country many times. At Fort Hood, the ceremony was made more poignant as a remembrance for soldiers who didn't die in wars abroad but in the safety of their own compound.

"They were members of a generation that has borne the burden of our security for more than a decade of war," Obama said on a breezy, sun washed day in central Texas.

Three soldiers died and 16 others were wounded in the rampage last Wednesday by another soldier, who killed himself.

Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrived late Wednesday morning at Fort Hood, where the camouflage fatigues of troops standing to salute his passing motorcade almost blended in with a patch of desert-like terrain. Flags were lowered to half-staff at the sprawling Army post, where Obama met with victims' relatives before offering his public condolences.

The memorial took place at the same spot where Obama eulogized victims of another mass shooting in 2009.

Three battle crosses, helmet-topped rifles above combat boots, stood in front of the speakers' platform, representing the three soldiers shot and killed - Sgt. Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez, Sgt. Timothy Owens, Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Ferguson.

Officials say they died following a shooting rampage by Army Spc. Ivan Lopez, who took his own life. Four of those shot remain in hospitals, officials said.

Obama praised Ferguson for keeping the gunman from pushing into a room where others could have been killed. "Danny held the door shut, saving the lives of others while sacrificing his own," he said. Owens was known for counseling fellow soldiers, the president said, and "gave his life walking toward the gunman, trying to calm him down."

Obama was the only speaker to mention that four soldiers were lost, including Lopez. As the president finished an address in which he repeated the phrase "love never ends," one soldier in the audience brushed away tears. The president exited the stage with his head down.

Fort Hood is a major post from which troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. As Obama has wound down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing troops back from the warzone, it seemed all the more jarring to have their sense of safety upended at their home base.

"It hurts. It hurts in the middle of the night. It hurts in the middle of the day. It hurts in the middle of your stomach. It hurts to lose someone you love," Chaplain Col. Goff said, following the president's address. "The reason it hurts so much is because we love so much."

Toward the end of the ceremony, soldiers stood for a roll call. The fallen soldiers' names were bellowed out by a sergeant three times. After no answer, in accordance with military tradition, their names were stricken from the roll. A line of seven soldiers pointed their rifles to the sky and shot three times. A solemn trumpeter played taps.

Time and again, Obama has been called on find ways to give meaning to senseless death. Tucson, Ariz. Aurora, Colo., Newtown, Conn., Boston, the Washington Navy Yard - communities now synonymous with tragedy. And now Fort Hood - for a second improbable time.

Adding complexity to the president's response were questions about whether Lopez's wartime service precipitated his actions. Although Lopez did a short stint in Iraq in 2011 and said he suffered a traumatic brain injury, Fort Hood officials have said his mental condition was not a "direct participating factor" in the shooting. Still, the 34-year-old was undergoing treatment for depression and anxiety while being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder, base officials said.

"We must honor these men by doing more to care for our fellow Americans living with mental illness, civilian and military," Obama said. "Today four American soldiers are gone. Four Army families are devastated. As commander in chief, I'm determined that we will continue to step up our efforts to reach our troops and veterans who are hurting, to deliver to them the care that they need and to make sure we never stigmatize those who have the courage to seek help."

For Obama, who tried unsuccessfully to turn the school tragedy of Newtown into a call for new gun controls, the Fort Hood shooting was less about pledging new policies than it was to simply do more with the tools in hand.

"In our open society, in advanced bases like this, we can never eliminate every risk, but as a nation, we can do more to help counsel those with mental health issues, to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are having such deep difficulties," he said. "As a military, we must continue to do everything in our power to secure our facilities and spare others this pain."

In attendance were members of the Texas congressional delegation, including Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also attended. The military brass included Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Secretary John McHugh, and Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army's top commander.

To be sure, Obama is not the first president called on to help Americans in their grief. Ronald Reagan had the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, Bill Clinton had Oklahoma City and George W. Bush had 9/11, to say nothing of the wars that American troops have fought overseas.

Those close to Obama say he sees his role after a tragedy as fulfilling a ministerial function for the nation. Valerie Jarrett, Obama's senior adviser and longtime friend, said although it's painful for Obama, he understands the importance for the president to show leadership, empathy and strength in times of crisis, and for him to spend time with each family member affected.

"It's hard because it's deeply personal for him," Jarrett said in an interview. "He identifies as a father, as a husband, as a son, as a family member."

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cmhmgh April 09 2014 at 10:19 PM

& then he is on his way to 2 DNC fund raisers in Houston TX not 2 hours after the memorial...one is a $16,000 plate dinner. REALLY?

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3 replies
mrobbie786 April 09 2014 at 7:34 PM

Love endures..............................................

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Brenda April 09 2014 at 10:55 PM

My sincere condolences for the family and friends of the 3 soldiers who died, the 16 soldiers wounded, and the soldier who took his own life. It's very disheartening when you hear of soldiers losing their lives here at home, may you all RIP. May I also take this time to say thank you to all service men and women all around the world.

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pinochlenana April 10 2014 at 10:28 AM

Our prayers go out to the families of the fallen for their strength to get thru all of this and for their loss. We thank the military for the time, service and sacrifice they make every day. This type of action should never of happened. We could allow all the military on duty to carry their weapons,, but when a person uses his own weapon and not the issued one, we can not blame the rules of no firearms. This is a military post, and by right, our soldiers should be able to protect it and the people on it. To all our armed forces, thank you for protecting our country and its people.

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snellbd April 10 2014 at 12:11 PM

And he went directly to a fund raiser just as he did after the attack in Syria. He speaks well but his actions speak louder than words

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1 reply
rmg21943 snellbd April 10 2014 at 6:07 PM

You mean Libya! The Benghazi survivors had been rescued already and on their way
to Germany when Obama left DC for Vegas. Before he left he gave a speech in the
Rose Garden referencing a terrorist attack. You do realize that DC and Libya are
in different time zones, don't you?

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bentnickel70 April 10 2014 at 5:50 AM

All these shootings keep happening in a gun free zone, go figure!!!!

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legererj April 10 2014 at 10:18 AM

Photo op'' He hadly ever visits the Militay, The one thing Bush did and still dose,

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2 replies
jtor legererj April 10 2014 at 10:37 AM

Bush was an AMERICAN, obama is ANTI AMERICAN, read the book "The Amatuer" you'll see the side of him!

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rmg21943 legererj April 10 2014 at 11:00 PM


Obama with the Troops - White House Photo Diary (NFTT)


WASHINGTON, March 28, 2010 – President Barack Obama today paid a surprise visit to troops in Afghanistan, delivering a message of praise to American servicemembers on behalf of the United States.

U.S. President Barack Obama greets U.S. troops at a mess hall at Bagram Air Field during a surprise visit to Afghanistan, March 28, 2010. White House photo by Pete Souza
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Speaking at Bagram Airfield to an audience of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, Obama said support for deployed servicemembers transcends partisan politics.
“I know that sometimes when you’re watching TV, the politics back home may look a little messy, and people are yelling and hollering, and Democrats this and Republicans that,” he said. “I want you to understand this: There’s no daylight when it comes to support of all of you. There’s no daylight when it comes to supporting our troops. That brings us together.
“We are all incredibly proud. We all honor what you do,” he continued. “And all of you show all of America what’s possible when people come together, not based on color or creed, not based on faith or station, but based on a commitment to serve together, to bleed together and to succeed together as one people, as Americans.”


69. And the USO’s partnership with Joining Forces – the White House’s initiative to create opportunities for military families – is stronger than ever. This past Sept. 11, First Lady Michelle Obama visited the USO Warriorand Family Center at Fort Belvoir to do an art project with children frommilitary families.

70. The USO/Joining Forces campaign also hosted a care package assembly event timed for Mothers Day in 2012, where the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden helpedCongressional spouses assemble packages for the mothers and spouses of deployed troops, including personalized notes from their loved ones serving abroad.

71. Speaking of the Bidens, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Biden mingled with troops and their families at two USO events in 2013: a USO/TAPS Good Grief Camp Out at Camp Pendleton,Calif. (for families of the fallen) and a barbecue for troops and their families stationed in Hawaii.

72. And President Obama himself attended a USO concert on his front lawn, when troops and their families were welcomed to theWhite House on the Fourth of July last year to watch the band fun. preform.

- See more at: http://www.uso.org/uso-73rd-birthday-2014/#sthash.B538taul.dpuf


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maa2626 April 09 2014 at 10:55 PM

I am surprised HP left this wide open for comment. quite surprised we did not need to sign in.

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1 reply
jnel713 maa2626 April 09 2014 at 11:00 PM

It's aol, where free speech remains. HP allows nothing against their obammy.

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Bill April 10 2014 at 10:16 AM

So the couple who don't like the military, secret service or anyone who is not black do a photo-op to appear like they care what happened at Fort Hood.

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1 reply
jtor Bill April 10 2014 at 10:48 AM

He is weakening Our Military for a reason, when the time comes we will be defenseless, while he flits off somewhere where him and his ontourage will be safe. They tolerate the SS because they are protecting them, with the same weapons him and hillary are trying to take away from the American people. His plans are going accordingly, thanks to the weak minded and illegals that voted for him TWICE no less!

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1 reply
rmg21943 jtor April 10 2014 at 11:04 PM

With 5000 nuclear weapons, ICBMs, cruise missles, stealth aircraft and
nuclear submarines we will never be defenseless. do you really think the
US military would ever permit the US to be defenseless? We have 300,000,000
personal weapons in the US and illegals can't vote!

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wconell April 10 2014 at 10:04 AM

It's like watching a Hollywood movie.
The props, the makeup, the lines, the cameras- and all fake.

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1 reply
rmg21943 wconell April 10 2014 at 11:05 PM

So Ft hood and the soldiers there are all fake to you? That figures.

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