Complete and continuing coverage of the fatal shootings at Fort Hood on Nov. 5, 2009

Unable to Escape the Horror of War, Even at Home: Obama

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    President Barack Obama speaks during memorial services at Fort Hood, Texas.

    High-ranking military officials joined the commander in chief just one day before Veterans Day at a memorial service for the 13 slain soldiers who were killed during last week's massacre at Fort Hood.

    As President Barack Obama and the first lady arrived Tuesday, already on the stage were several soldiers who were wounded in Thursday's shootings. Some had made their way to the stage on crutches, one was in a wheelchair and they were joined by victims' relatives.

    At the front of the platform stood a row of battlefield crosses, the traditional soldier tribute to the fallen: Pairs of boots, a rifle protruding straight out of one of the boots and a combat helmet resting atop the weapon. In front of each set of boots was a photo of each victim.

    The national anthem played after the president's arrival, and the soldiers in the crowd of about 15,000 stood at attention. In a prayer opening the ceremony, each slain victim was named by first name.

    Then, the invocation by Chaplain Col. Michael Lembke and opening remarks by Lt. Gen. Robert W. Cone, Commanding General III Corps and Fort Hood.

    "We will never be accustomed to losing one of our own but we can more easily accept it when it happens on foreign soil against a known enemy," said Cone.  "Fort Hood has lost 545 from its formations in Iraq and Afghanistan but never did we expect to pay such a high price at home. A place where soldiers feel secure. Even so, soldiers do what soldiers do best they take care of each other in time of need."

    Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. George W. Casey, said it was tradition for special operations units to quote from the book of Isaiah when eulogizing fallen comrades.  Casey shared the following verse, which he said conveys a sentiment that applies to every soldier in our Army ... giving a voice to the spirit of service that lives in every soldier.

    Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying whom shall I send? And who will go for us? Then I said, Here am I, send me'

    "It's a spirit we saw in the 13 soldiers who gave their lives here. Men and women who believed in the values and ideals this country stands for," Casey said. "The violence that led to the deaths of these 13 Americans and the wounding of dozens of others was unimaginable, it was a kick in the gut. The men and women who were killed had more than a century of service to this country, and their loss left 19 children, spouses, parents and untold loved ones. What happened this past Thursday will impact the families, the Fort Hood community and the Army for a long time to come."

    Last up before the benediction was Obama, who poignantly pointed out that one of the things that makes the Fort Hood tragedy so hard to accept was that these soldiers died on U.S. soil -- where they were believed to be safe from the dangers of war.  (Read the full text of Obama's speech here.)

    "They were killed here, on American soil, in the heart of this great American community. It is this fact that makes the tragedy even more painful and even more incomprehensible," Obama said. "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."

    "Neither this country - nor the values that we were founded upon - could exist without men and women like these thirteen Americans. And that is why we must pay tribute to their stories," Obama said.

    The ceremony ended with roll call of the fallen, a 21-gun salute and taps.

    Fallen Heroes and Obama's words on each:

    C.W.O. Michael Cahill (retired) had served in the National Guard and worked as a physician's assistant for decades. A husband and father of three, he was so committed to his patients that on the day he died, he was back at work just weeks after having a heart attack.

    Maj. Libardo Eduardo Caraveo spoke little English when he came to America as a teenager. But he put himself through college, earned a PhD, and was helping combat units cope with the stress of deployment. He is survived by his wife, sons and step-daughters.

    Staff Sgt. Justin DeCrow joined the Army right after high school, married his high school sweetheart, and had served as a light wheeled mechanic and Satellite Communications Operator. He was known as an optimist, a mentor, and a loving husband and father.

    After retiring from the Army as a Major, John Gaffaney cared for society's most vulnerable during two decades as a psychiatric nurse. He spent three years trying to return to active duty in this time of war, and he was preparing to deploy to Iraq as a Captain. He leaves behind a wife and son.

    Spc. Frederick Greene was a Tennessean who wanted to join the Army for a long time, and did so in 2008 with the support of his family. As a combat engineer he was a natural leader, and he is survived by his wife and two daughters.

    Spc. Jason Hunt was also recently married, with three children to care for. He joined the Army after high school. He did a tour in Iraq, and it was there that he re-enlisted for six more years on his 21st birthday so that he could continue to serve.

    Staff Sgt. Amy Krueger was an athlete in high school, joined the Army shortly after 9/11, and had since returned home to speak to students about her experience. When her mother told her she couldn't take on Osama bin Laden by herself, Amy replied: "Watch me."

    PFC Aaron Nemelka was an Eagle Scout who just recently signed up to do one of the most dangerous jobs in the service - diffuse bombs - so that he could help save lives. He was proudly carrying on a tradition of military service that runs deep within his family.

    PFC Michael Pearson loved his family and loved his music, and his goal was to be a music teacher. He excelled at playing the guitar, and could create songs on the spot and show others how to play. He joined the military a year ago, and was preparing for his first deployment.

    Capt. Russell Seager worked as a nurse for the VA, helping veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress. He had great respect for the military, and signed up to serve so that he could help soldiers cope with the stress of combat and return to civilian life. He leaves behind a wife and son.

    Pvt. Francheska Velez, the daughter of a father from Colombia and a Puerto Rican mother, had recently served in Korea and in Iraq, and was pursuing a career in the Army. When she was killed, she was pregnant with her first child, and was excited about becoming a mother.

    Lt. Col. Juanita Warman was the daughter and granddaughter of Army veterans. She was a single mother who put herself through college and graduate school, and served as a nurse practitioner while raising her two daughters. She also left behind a loving husband.

    PFC Kham Xiong came to America from Thailand as a small child. He was a husband and father who followed his brother into the military because his family had a strong history of service. He was preparing for his first deployment to Afghanistan.

    One young soldier, Amber Bahr, was so intent on helping others that she did not realize for some time that she, herself, had been shot in the back. Two police officers - Mark Todd and Kim Munley - saved countless lives by risking their own.

    One medic - Francisco de la Serna - treated both Officer Munley and the gunman who shot her.

    Thursday's shooting was believed to be carried out by Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychologist and muslim who objected to the war and his upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. In all, the attack on the base killed 13, including one woman who was pregnant, and injured more than two dozen people.

    "Here, at Fort Hood, we pay tribute to 13 men and women who were not able to escape the horror of war, even in the comfort of home."