With the traditional roll call of the fallen, rifle salutes and sounding of taps, Fort Hood ended its ceremonial farewell to three soldiers killed in an April 2 shooting rampage.
Speaking from behind three battlefield crosses, President Barack Obama and Army leaders paid tribute to the three.
Each told of the life achievements of Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Ferguson, Staff Sgt. Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez and Sgt. Timothy Owens and vowed that they and their grieving families won't be forgotten. Afterward, the speakers filed past the crosses of the dead and paused to salute each slain soldier.
"This tragedy tears a wound still raw from 5 years ago," Obama said. "Part of what makes this so painful is we've been here before," he continued, referencing a 2009 attack that left 13 dead on the base.
He extended sympathies to the families of the soldiers who lost their lives in the April 2 shooting.
"No words are equal to your loss. We are here on behalf of the American people to honor your loved ones," Obama said. "To the parents of these men, as a father, I cannot begin to fathom your loss." The President said the families of the victims "gave your sons to America."
Yet there was a message of hope in the Commander in Chief's remarks. "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never ends." Obama said. "It is love, tested by tragedy that brings us together again."
People started taking their seats hours before the ceremony began. A team of soldiers contending with strong winds wrestled a large American flag into place as a backdrop for speakers.
As the music began to play near 1 p.m. Central time, notable figures like Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Sen. John Cornyn, Reps. Bill Flores, Rogers Willians, and Black Farenthold, John Carter, and Al Green, Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi all arrived at the memorial.
Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrived Wednesday morning at Fort Hood's Gray Army Airfield.
Shortly after 1:30 p.m., the service was underway.
Army Leaders Describe Soldiers
Fort Hood's commander, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, spoke Wednesday of the life accomplishments of the three slain soldiers and their families as their president and uniformed comrades listened. Milley said they would always be remembered by their comrades and their families would always be cared for.
Milley was followed by the Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno and Secretary of the Army, John McHugh. Odierno said that the loss of soldiers in war is a tragedy the country comes to eventually understand. But he said the death of soldiers at the hands of another is "inexplicable" and difficult to comprehend. McHugh told the audience that "unspeakable violence" occurred at the Central Texas post April 2 and that the shooting disrupted "a sense of home" thousands of soldiers and their families had established at Fort Hood.
Following Odierno and McHugh was President Obama, who said the nation is drawing strength from relatives of the victims of the fatal shootings last week at Fort Hood. He added the tragedy tears at wounds that are still raw from a deadly mass shooting on the sprawling Army post five years ago.
Obama told relatives of the victims that he's there to honor their loved ones and offer whatever comfort he can.
Investigators say Spc. Ivan Lopez shot the others April 2 before fatally shooting himself with his handgun.
Only two patients remain at Scott and White Memorial Hospital in Temple, both in fair condition after having been seriously wounded in the shooting on April 2.
Get live Twitter updates from NBC 5's Scott Gordon below.
Reprising Grim Role, Obama to Grieve at Fort Hood
Returning once again to a grief-stricken corner of America, President Barack Obama is reprising his role as chief comforter, mourning with families of those killed last week at Fort Hood and offering solace to the nation.
It's a duty that Obama has had to fulfill far too often.
Tucson. Aurora. Newtown. Boston. Washington Navy Yard. Fort Hood -- twice.
The names of these communities have all become synonymous with tragedy in the years since Obama took office, each challenging the president to find ways to impart meaning to senseless death.
"Increasingly, giving these eulogies has become a central responsibility for our presidents," said Michael Waldman, who helped write many eulogies as President Bill Clinton's chief speechwriter. "A president is not just a political leader. He is the head of state and speaks for the whole country."
But as Obama returns to Fort Hood on Wednesday, he brings little in the way of solutions to offer a society that has been confounded by the frequency of events that have jolted Americans out of their sense of security. For a president who is on the path to ending two wars, warding off violence at home has proved an elusive challenge.
Those close to Obama say he sees his role after a tragedy as fulfilling a ministerial function for the nation. Valerie Jarrett, Obama's senior adviser and longtime friend, said although it's painful for Obama, he understands the importance for the president to show leadership, empathy and strength in times of crisis, and for him to spend time with each family member affected.
"It's hard because it's deeply personal for him," Jarrett said in an interview. "He identifies as a father, as a husband, as a son, as a family member."
The last time Obama came to Fort Hood, in the wake of another mass shooting in 2009, he told residents of the central Texas community that the 13 lives they lost would endure, their legacies safeguarded by the nation whose protection they had made their life's work.
"Every evening that the sun sets on a tranquil town, every dawn that a flag is unfurled, every moment that an American enjoys life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- that is their legacy," Obama said, adopting the role of comforter-in-chief for the first time.
Like an improbable bolt of lightning, tragedy has struck twice at Fort Hood. Army investigators are still piecing together what led to Lopez's deadly, eight-minute rampage last week, on the same sprawling post where an Army psychiatrist unloaded on his comrades five years earlier.
To be sure, Obama is not the first president called on to help Americans in their grief. Ronald Reagan had the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, Bill Clinton had Oklahoma City and George W. Bush had 9/11, to say nothing of the wars that American troops have fought overseas.
Reporters from the Associated Press and NBC 5 contributed to this report.