Gloomy, cold weather plagued Fort Hood the morning of April 9, much like the feeling of loss and heartbreak has for the past week.
Mourners were offered comfort as the sun came out and the memorial ceremony began honoring the three dead and sixteen injured in the April 2 Fort Hood shooting. A community of 3,000 people affected by the shooting attended the memorial ceremony Wednesday honoring those killed by gunman Spc. Ivan Lopez.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were in attendance at the memorial, and he offered words of comfort to the community. Remarks from Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno and Secretary of the Army John McHugh opened the ceremony.
The fallen soldiers will not be forgotten, Milley said.
Sgt. Daniel Ferguson, who was killed while trying to protect his fellow soldiers from the shooter, always placed the needs of others above his own, Odierno said. Ferguson was a Dallas Cowboys fan, a fiancé and a father and served for 20 years.
Sgt. Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez loved Aqua Man, the Miami Heat and his son, and served for 19 years.
“The loss of these three soldiers is a terrible tragedy in our army family,” Odierno said.
Heroism was demonstrated by Sgt. Timothy Owens, who was killed while walking toward the gunman in an attempt to calm him down, Obama said.
“It was love for their comrades that defined their last moments,” Obama said.
Owens was a “soldier’s soldier” and was dedicated to his fellow servicemen. Owens was a husband and father, and served for nine years. Owens loved driving his Mitsubishi Eclipse equipped with a V6 engine, said Caycee Hauck, one of his close friends.
Hauck spent time with Owens at car shows and clubs, and worked with him on cars.
“He would help out anybody,” Hauck said. “He’s a hero. I miss him.”
The three fallen soldiers remind the nation of the level of “unspeakable violence” that can be reached within Fort Hood’s walls, McHugh said. The first shooting at Fort Hood occurred in 2009.
Enduring the loss of three more soldiers in 2014 is made more painful because the circumstances have happened before, Obama said.
“This tragedy tears a wound still raw from five years ago,” Obama said.
Efforts need to be renewed to keep soldiers safe at home, Obama said. Soldiers return from deployment only to lose their lives in a “place of safety,” McHugh said.
“We must honor these men by doing more to care for our citizens with mental illness,” Obama said.
Soldiers prepare for “chaos at war” but not at home, Odierno said.
“These soldiers were lost on their own soil, making this tragedy heartbreaking and inexplicable,” Odierno said.
Every American must see the men and women who serve the country as “the extraordinary citizens that they are,” Obama said. The nation will honor the fallen heroes, Obama said.
Families of the fallen and injured were assured by that they are not alone in their time of heartbreak.
“We lean on each other, we hold each other up, we carry on,” Obama said.
The service ended with three volleys from seven guns in honor of the fallen soldiers and the playing of “Taps.”
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” Obama said. “Love never ends.