Returning for another time in Fort Hood, Texas, to mourn and offer solace to a community shaken by the second deadly shooting in less than five years, President Obama urged the nation to honor lost lives with a renewed commitment to keep troops safe — not just in battles, but on the home front as well.
"Part of what makes this so painful is that we've been here before,” Obama said. "We must honor their lives not in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrived Wednesday at Fort Hood, where flags were lowered to half-staff at the sprawling central Texas Army base. The president met with victims' relatives before imparting his public condolences.
The president eulogized the three men killed in last week's rampage, in which a gunman fired almost three dozen shots in just eight minutes before ending his own life.
Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Ferguson, 39, threw his body against the entryway of a door and became a human shield during the shooting. Sgt. Timothy Owens, 37, and Staff Sgt. Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez, 38, were also killed in the violent incident.
"They were taken from us much too soon,” Obama said. "Their passing shakes our soul.”
Spc. Ivan A. Lopez, 34, the alleged shooter, also wounded 16 other military personnel. Investigators are still piecing together a motive for his deadly spree.
In his address, Obama emphasized the need for better counseling of those with mental health issues and a better system to ensure firearms stay out of the hands of "those who are having such deep difficulties.”
He also said that those who have the courage to seek help for their mental health issues should not be stigmatized.
The memorial on Wednesday took place on the base in the same place where Obama memorialized victims of the November 2009 mass shooting.
On that tragic day, Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan opened fire on the same post, killing 13 people.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
First published April 9 2014, 12:56 PM