Obama: “They Were Taken From Us Much Too Soon”

FORT HOOD (April 9, 2014) President Barack Obama returned to Fort Hood Wednesday to pay tribute to the three soldiers who died in a shooting rampage almost exactly a week ago.

"Once more, soldiers who survived foreign war zones were struck down here at home, where they’re supposed to be safe," he said.

Sgt. Timothy Owens, 37, of Effingham, Ill., an Iraq war veteran; Staff Sgt. Carlos A. Lazaney-Rodriguez, 38, of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, a 20-year Army veteran who was planning to retire; and Sgt. 1st Class Danny Ferguson, 39, of Mulberry, Fla., a Bronze Star recipient who had just returned from a deployment to Afghanistan, died when Spc. Ivan Lopez opened fire late in the afternoon on April 2.

Lopez fired a total of 35 rounds in a rampage that lasted for eight minutes from the time of the first 911 calls until he shot himself after a female MP confronted him in a parking lot.

Sixteen other soldiers were injured.

The memorial service Wednesday was eerily similar to the service held almost five years ago for the 13 who were killed when Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan opened fire on Nov. 5, 2009 in the post’s Soldier Readiness Center.

As he did then, President Barack Obama sought Wednesday to comfort the grieving and to reassure the nation.

“It is love tested by tragedy that brings us together again,” he said.

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. It was love for the Army that made them the soldiers they were,” he said.

"To the parents of these men, as a father, I cannot begin to fathom your anguish. But I know that you poured your love and your hopes into your sons. "You gave your sons to America, and just as you will honor them always, so, too, will the nation that they served."

"We must honor their lives, not “in word or talk, but in deed and in truth."

“Like the 576 Fort Hood soldiers who’ve 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.”

“Today we mourn,” III Corps and Fort Hood Commander Lt. Gen. Mark Milley said, as he paid tribute to the fallen.

“Each made the ultimate sacrifice, tragically not in a war zone, but here at home among their brothers and sisters in arms,” he said.

To the families of the fallen Milley said, “We want you all to know we stand with you, we grieve with you, and we will be here for you not just today, not just tomorrow, but forever. You’re in our hearts and our prayers.”

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, a former III Corps and Fort Hood commander, said the shooting last week reopened wounds from the 2009 rampage.

“Today we are all here to tell you and to show you that our Army and our nation are here for you,” he said.

“We cannot help but feel the echoes of that most horrible day in the tragedy we now face,” he said.

Secretary of the Army John McHugh also alluded to the 2009 shooting.

“We are here again far too soon to mourn more loss all too great,” he said.

“May never know how many lives were saved and how many others might have been lost were it not for those heroes, but know this, we are forever grateful for their bravery and forever humbled by their selflessness,” he said.

The memorial service for the three soldiers started earlier than scheduled Wednesday afternoon.

Somber music began playing shortly after 1 p.m. and the service started just before 1:40 p.m.

The president and first lady arrived late Wednesday morning.

U.S. Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, were both present, as were three Central Texas congressmen, U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin and U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also attended.

State officials present included Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Access to the post was restricted because of the service.

The Fort Hood Main Gate was closed from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., but other access points along U.S. Highway 190 remained open, officials said.

A gust of wind caught the president and first lady as they exited Air Force One after arriving at Fort Hood.
Soldiers gathered outside of III Corps Headquarters late Wednesday morning, more than two hours ahead of the memorial service. (Photo by Rachel Cox)
The program for the memorial service. (Photo by Rachel Cox)
III Corps and Fort Hood Commander Lt. Gen. Mark Milley paid tribute to the three fallen soldiers Wednesday.