Under flags lowered to half-staff, the tough community of Killeen, Texas, gathered Friday night to remember soldiers gunned down by a colleague at Fort Hood.
Dozens of American flag-waving people walked in a tribute vigil at a Killeen park for the three soldiers killed on the post by Spc. Ivan A. Lopez on Wednesday. It was organized by Team Red, White and Blue, a nonprofit organization supporting veterans.
Services for fallen warriors have been a sad but common occurrence in military towns since the war in Iraq began 11 years ago. But for Killeen — whose official documents and website proclaim itself the "Proud Home of Fort Hood!" — Friday's night memorial was brutally bitter.
Joe Raedle / Getty Images
Melissa Phillips holds her daughter, Sierra, during a flag walk Friday in Killeen, Texas, in memory of those killed and injured Wednesday at Fort Hood.
For the second time in less than five years, the mourning wasn't for service members killed fighting in a faraway land. For the second time in less than five years, the mourning was for service members killed going about their business at their home post.
"This happens all over the United States and all over the world. It's not unique to Fort Hood,” Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin said this week. "It just seems like it's sadder when it happens here because these guys have been to war and come back and then get killed."
The fallen this time are Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Ferguson, Sgt. Timothy Owens and SSgt. Carlos Alberto Lazaney Rodriguez. They were killed Wednesday when Lopez got into an argument with somebody and started shooting — including, eventually, himself, military officials said.
(Three injured victims remain hospitalized at the Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple. A fourth was expected to have been discharged on Friday. In total 16 people were injured in the shooting.)
Four and a half years ago, similar remembrances were held for a much longer list of names — the 13 people who were killed when an Army psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Hasan, opened fire on the same post.
And it's not just the location. Specific details of Wednesday's shootings also serve to bring Hasan's assault back to the forefront.
Lopez and Hasan bought their weapons from the same Killeen gun store. They were both in full uniform. And they were both stopped by a female military police officer — at scenes just a few hundred yards apart near a medical facility.
There have been other attempts at violence on the post: A private tried but failed to blow up a bomb near the post's main entrance in 2011.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, reflected the stunned sense of déja vu Wednesday night as the extent of Lopez's carnage became clear.
"The scenes coming from Fort Hood today are sadly too familiar and still too fresh in our memories," Cornyn said. "No community should have to go through this horrific violence once, let alone twice."
"It just seems like it's sadder when it happens here because these guys have been to war and come back and then get killed."
But soldiers and Texans said they are determined not to let yet another episode of violence at the post destroy Killeen's spirit or sense of family.
"It's times like these that you see the resilience of the military family," Gov. Rick Perry said Friday during a tour of the post. "You still see it in the eyes of the people that you meet. You see it in the handshake that they give you, the strength of these people.
"They'll recover from this latest tragedy," he promised. "They'll heal their wounds, and we'll go forward."
Gen. Ray Odierno was sharing in the grief — and the determination — beyond his role as chief of staff of the Army. Odierno was a brigade commander, a division commander and the commander of the 3rd Corps at Fort Hood — its commanding officer.
"For me it's close to home," Odierno said. "We have lost young people who are part of our Army family, and we take that incredibly seriously. I understand the resilience of that community — the resilience of the people there, how proud the soldiers are of what they do. ...
"We will continue to be incredibly resilient and move forward," he promised.
First published April 4 2014, 5:05 PM