(FORT HOOD, Texas) — For the second time, President Obama visited Ft. Hood to speak at a memorial service for shooting victims. And for the second time, the president praised the victims as honorable soldiers and sought to console the community that lost them.
“Part of what makes this so painful is that we’ve been here before,” Obama said Wednesday. “This tragedy tears at wounds still raw from five years ago. Once more soldiers who survived foreign war zones were struck down here at home, where they’re supposed to be safe. We still do not yet know exactly why.”
Obama stood in the same place as he did on Nov. 10, 2009, when he addressed families and soldiers stationed on the base days after Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan shot and killed 13.
“This is a time of war. Yet these Americans did not die on a foreign field of battle,” Obama told the soldiers gathered then, at the Army’s III Corps headquarters. “They were killed here, on American soil, in the heart of this great state and the heart of this great American community. This is the fact that makes the tragedy even more painful, even more incomprehensible.”
Nearly four and a half years later, the president returned a week after Spc. Ivan Lopez, 34, shot and killed three at Ft. Hood on April 2.
“It was love for country that inspired these three Americans to put on the uniform and join the greatest Army that the world has ever known,” Obama said of the three victims: Sgt. First Class Daniel Ferguson, 39; Staff Sgt. Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez, 38; and Sgt. Timothy Owens, 37.
This time, Obama called for better care for veterans with mental-health issues and stronger controls on guns—one of many contentious issues in the White House’s failed gun-control push, as opponents warned that the government shouldn’t prevent veterans from buying guns after they return home from service abroad.
“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,” the president told rows of uniformed Army soldiers seated in white folding chairs, on a sunny and windy day. “As a military, we must continue to do everything in our power to secure our facilities and spare others this pain.”
Along with first lady Michelle Obama, before the service the president met with families of the shooting victims—just as he did in 2009.
The service concluded with a firing of volleys and was attended by Texas Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Secretary of the Army John McHugh, and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno.
It was a familiar scene from Obama’s presidency, in a broader sense: A series of public shootings since 2009 has placed him in the same role elsewhere. In January 2011, President Obama traveled to Tucson to speak at a memorial service for the victims killed in the shooting that injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. In July 2012, he spoke at University of Colorado Hospital, after another shooter killed 12 in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. In December 2012, he spoke at a prayer vigil for Sandy Hook shooting victims at Newtown High School in Connecticut. In September 2013, he spoke at a memorial for victims of the Navy Yard shooting in Washington, D.C
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