Search AOL Mail
AOL Mail
AOL Favorites

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."

Join the discussion

1000|Characters 1000  Characters
Robert Leonetti April 10 2014 at 8:28 AM


Flag Reply +10 rate up
2 replies
RL Robert Leonetti April 10 2014 at 8:49 AM

LOL that is the funniest thing I have read today. Thank you!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
rmg21943 Robert Leonetti April 10 2014 at 9:55 AM

Obama has done morte for the military and it's veterans than any
other modern day president. Google it!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
tpm April 09 2014 at 8:15 PM

Pray for those who grieve and mourn. Pray for the wounded. Pray for our country. Lord, have mercy.

Flag Reply +17 rate up
1 reply
gmvid tpm April 09 2014 at 10:23 PM

Lord, have mercy on the USA as long as Obama is President. He is a vile person.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
Luke Flynn April 10 2014 at 10:28 AM

Yeah he was really wanted to give some words of consolation. Thats why he couldn't wait to get out of the and immediately when back ro fund raising. Yeah he's real concerned. If he was really concerned he would use that pen and phone of his and create legislation that would allow all soldiers to carry a side arm while on base.

Flag Reply +12 rate up
ectullis April 10 2014 at 12:49 AM


Flag Reply +8 rate up
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.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
Bob April 09 2014 at 11:14 PM

Absolutely clueless, they were only attacked because they were unarmed.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
1 reply
rmg21943 Bob April 10 2014 at 1:01 AM

they were attacked because he was angry and surprised them. military bases
been gun free zones since the clinton administration and GW Bush didn't do
anything about it.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
Phil rmg21943 April 10 2014 at 3:41 AM

Bush tried to reverse that but the Democaps over ruled him!!

Flag +2 rate up
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.

Flag Reply +11 rate up
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!

Flag Reply +4 rate up
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!

Flag 0 rate up
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.

Flag Reply +13 rate up
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.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
bentnickel70 April 10 2014 at 5:50 AM

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

Flag Reply +13 rate up
teapartyisdying.uall April 09 2014 at 7:04 PM

These 9 Maps Should Absolutely Outrage Southerners


Flag Reply +2 rate up
aol~~ 1209600


More From Our Partners