FORT HOOD, Texas – President Obama returned to the grieving Army post Wednesday where he first took on the job as the nation's comforter five years ago, mourning at Fort Hood with families and comrades of those killed during last week's shooting spree. "We somehow bear what seems unbearable," he said.
It was yet another sad observance for a president who has had to deliver words of consolation across the nation many times during his years in office. At Fort Hood, the ceremony was made more poignant as a remembrance for soldiers who didn't die in wars abroad but in the safety of their own compound.
"They were members of a generation that has borne the burden of our security for more than a decade of war," he said.
Three soldiers died and 16 others were wounded in the rampage last Wednesday by another soldier, who killed himself.
Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrived Wednesday morning at Fort Hood, where the camouflage fatigues of troops standing to salute his passing motorcade almost blended in with the desert terrain. Flags were lowered to half-staff at the sprawling Army post in central Texas, where Obama met with victims' relatives before offering his public condolences.
The memorial took place at the same spot where Obama eulogized victims of another mass shooting in 2009.
Three battle crosses, helmet-topped rifles above combat boots, stood in front of the speakers' platform, representing the three soldiers shot and killed. Officials say they died following a shooting rampage by Army Specialist Ivan Lopez.
Obama was the only speaker to mention that four soldiers were lost, including the gunman. As the president finished an address in which he repeated the phrase "love never ends," one soldier in the audience brushed away tears. The president left the stage with his head down.
"It hurts. It hurts in the middle of the night. It hurts in the middle of the day. It hurts in the middle of your stomach. It hurts to lose someone you love," Chaplain Col. Goff said after Obama's address.
Toward the end of the ceremony, soldiers stood for a roll call. The fallen soldiers' names were called out three times. After no answer, in accordance with military tradition, their names were stricken from the roll. Seven soldiers pointed their rifles to the sky and shot three times. A solemn trumpeter played taps.