HOUSTON — U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, attended a memorial at the Fort Hood army base in central Texas to honor the three soldiers killed one week ago in a shooting rampage that ended when the gunman, also a soldier, killed himself.
Standing before a crowd that included family members, friends and colleagues of the people who died or suffered wounds one week ago, President Obama said last week's shooting tears at wounds yet to heal from the 2009 attack carried out by Major Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood, in which 13 people were killed. Hasan was sentenced to death last year.
Speaking on the same field where the 2009 memorial was held, President Obama told mourning family members that no words would be sufficient to end their grief.
"We are here on behalf of the American people to honor your loved ones and to offer whatever comfort we can, but know this, we also draw strength from you, for even in your grief, even as your heart breaks, we see in you that eternal truth - love never ends," said President Obama.
President Obama focused mainly on the three men who were shot and killed in the rampage last week - Staff Sergeant Carlos Rodriguez, Sergeant Timothy Owens and Sergeant First Class Danny Ferguson. They died when U.S. Army Specialist Ivan Lopez moved around in a two-city-block size area firing a .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol at fellow soldiers. When confronted by a police officer, Lopez shot himself in the head. Investigators say an argument over the denial of a leave request preceded the shooting, but that Lopez was taking medication for a number of mental problems.
Referring to the mental health issue, the president included Lopez as one of the victims, and included the Lopez family among the loved ones now suffering. He said more needs to be done for the mentally ill and that those needing help should not be afraid to seek it.
"As commander-in-chief, I am determined that we will continue to step up our effort to reach our troops and veterans who are hurting and to deliver to them the care that they need and to make sure we never stigmatize those who have the courage to seek help," said Obama.
Investigators say they still have no idea why the 34-year-old Lopez carried out the shooting. Although there was an argument that seems to have escalated into violence, it is also known that Lopez purchased the weapon at an off-base gun store and brought it onto the base without properly registering it, in violation of army regulations. They say he also took actions earlier that day that could indicate preparation for some kind of catastrophic event. Around 150 military police, FBI agents, Texas rangers and other law enforcement personnel are involved in the investigation, trying to learn more about why this tragedy occurred.