For the second time in five years, the president of the United States spoke at a memorial for shooting victims at Fort Hood in Texas.
“It is love, tested by tragedy, that brings us together again,” President Obama said Wednesday afternoon, acknowledging that he — and the entire nation — have been through this before. “This tragedy tears a wound still raw from four years ago.”
In 2009, after a military psychiatrist who proclaimed jihad shot and killed 13 people at the same military post, Obama also spoke at a memorial for the victims. “These are trying times for our country,” the president had said, adopting the role of what the Associated Press‘s Josh Lederman calls “comforter-in-chief.”
The president was in Texas on Wednesday to eulogize three sergeants killed in the shooting last week: Daniel M. Ferguson, 39, Timothy W. Owens, 37, and Carlos A. Lazaney-Rodriguez, 38. The sergeants has nine overseas deployments between them. The president and first lady met with the victims’ families before the service.
“For you, for your families, no words are equal to your loss,” Obama said. “We are here on behalf of the American people to honor your loved ones and offer whatever comfort we can.”
Last Wednesday, a 32-year-old Army truck driver, Ivan Lopez, opened fire at the military post before taking his own life. Sixteen others were wounded in the shooting, and four remain hospitalized in stable condition.
“Those who survived foreign war zones were struck down here at home where they are supposed to be safe,” Obama said, echoing his statements at Fort Hood five years ago. “We still do not know why.”
Since the 2009 shooting, the president has delivered similar remarks in Tucson, Aurora, Newtown, and Washington Navy Yard — all sites of mass shootings. “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end,” Obama said during his memorable 2012 speech after a shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school claimed 26 lives.
But Wednesday’s speech did not push heavily for legislative action on gun control, as some of his previous eulogies have. This time, Obama focused on the need for increased access to mental-health services.
“As commander in chief, I have determined that we will continue to step up our efforts to reach our troops and veterans who are hurting, to deliver to them the care that they need and to make sure we never stigmatize those who have the courage to seek help,” he said.
Investigators say Lopez, who had served in Iraq and was being evaluated for several mental health conditions, had an argument with another soldier before the shooting.