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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."

Join the discussion

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mechelleregene April 09 2014 at 7:30 PM

I want to honor those who lost their lives, were impacted by this tragedy. I embrace the families that are suffering because of the interruption of their peace of mind and soul. My thoughts are tangled in trying to understand...one survives the war on foreign soil and then is lost in a battle at home. Being the leader is never an easy task. Someone will always feel the need to share their opinion...valid or not. Since you are damned if you do and damned if you don't...do you and let that be the reason.

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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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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

YOU COULDN'T BE MORE WRONG!!

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

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/05/22/1091953/-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.”

http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=58504

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

http://www.uso.org/uso-73rd-birthday-2014/

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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.

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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.

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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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teapartyisdying.uall April 09 2014 at 7:04 PM

These 9 Maps Should Absolutely Outrage Southerners

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/06/maps-of-the-south-bad-place_n_4855191.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

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pinochlenana April 09 2014 at 6:02 PM

To All The Men & Women in our armed forces: THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE AND SACRIFICE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY HAVE MADE FOR AMERICA.

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1 reply
KatiaOne pinochlenana April 09 2014 at 6:30 PM

Amen to that

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Linda April 09 2014 at 11:29 PM

The nerve of him. If he wants to do something honest for a change he needs to change his perspective on the original Ft. Hood event and and show the families of those men compassion by declaring the event terrorist and allowing them the forthcoming benefits. What a phony he is. All this is is another photo op.

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2 replies
Torak Linda April 09 2014 at 11:30 PM

And you have quite a bit of nerve yourself. Tearing at the President during a time of mourning. Take your BS elsewhere.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
pandab357 Linda April 09 2014 at 11:31 PM

That is what I was going to say.

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1 reply
Sheryl pandab357 April 09 2014 at 11:45 PM

I agree with Torak & panda...

Flag +1 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
Emmett D Bowers April 09 2014 at 8:07 PM

There are no words that can convey the hurt and void that death leaves. Yet, we must stand firm and tall facing a new day with new hope and comfort that what has transpired will leave us with a sense of love and unity for our fellowman..

Flag Reply +9 rate up
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