WASHINGTON, April 10, 2014 – For the second time since a mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, five years ago, President Barack Obama returned to the Army post today to again pay tribute to soldiers cut down by one of their own, offering condolences to the families of those killed by an Army specialist last week and acknowledging that “part of what makes this so painful is that we’ve been here before.”
“Once more, soldiers who survived foreign war zones were struck down here at home, where they are supposed to be safe,” Obama told mourning families and members of the Fort Hood community. “This tragedy tears a wound still raw from five years ago,” the president said during a ceremony held at the same location where he eulogized the 13 people killed by Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan in November 2009 in what stands as the worst mass shooting on a U.S. military base in history.
“It was love for country that inspired these three Americans to put on the uniform and join the greatest army the world has ever known. … They lived those shining values of loyalty, duty, honor that keep us strong and free.”
Obama recalled how all three of those killed — Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Michael Ferguson, Staff Sgt. Carlos Lazaney Rodriguez and Sgt. Timothy Wayne Owens — served in Iraq or Afghanistan, and that Ferguson and Owens were cut down while trying to prevent the gunman, Spc. Ivan Lopez, from claiming further victims.
“As we’ve heard, when the gunman tried to push his way into that room, Danny held the door shut, saving the lives of others while sacrificing his own,” the president said. “And it’s said that Timothy, the counselor, even then gave his life walking toward the gunman trying to calm him down.”
As this second shooting at Fort Hood has shown, the president said, it will never be possible to eliminate the risk of such incidents. “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 added.
He pledged that as commander in chief he is determined that “we will continue to step up our efforts to reach our troops and veterans who are hurting, to deliver them the care that they need and to make sure we never stigmatize those who have the courage to seek help.”
While Obama said the exact motive for last week’s shootings is still not known, investigators have said Lopez had argued with members of his unit just prior to opening fire and also was being evaluated for mental health issues, although mental illness has not been identified as a factor in the rampage.
As he wrapped up his solemn remarks, Obama said the three soldiers were “members of a generation that has borne the burden of our security in more than a decade of war,” calling them extraordinary citizens in an era when fewer Americans know someone in uniform.
“Like the 576 Fort Hood soldiers who have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, they were taken from us much too soon,” he said. “Like the 13 Americans we lost five years ago, their passing shakes our soul.” Yet, he noted, the people affected somehow bear what seems unbearable.