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Obama: ‘No Faith Justifies’ Shooting at Fort Hood

November 10, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST
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President Obama traveled to Fort Hood Tuesday to address a memorial service for the victims of last week's shooting rampage that left 13 dead and 29 wounded. Kwame Holman reports.
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JIM LEHRER: President Obama honored the victims of the Fort Hood massacre today. He led the mourners at an outdoor memorial service on the large Army post in Central Texas.

“NewsHour” correspondent Kwame Holman has our lead story report.

KWAME HOLMAN: Thousands of family members, friends, and fellow soldiers came from across the country today for the somber ceremonies. They paid tribute to the lives and service of the 13 people killed and 29 wounded last Thursday.

Some of the wounded were able to attend the service. Others remain hospitalized. In memory of the dead, 13 pairs of combat boots were placed below the stage, each with an inverted rifle topped with a helmet. A picture of each victim was displayed below.

The post’s commanding officer, Lieutenant General Robert Cone:

LIEUTENANT GENERAL BOB CONE, commanding officer, Fort Hood: Fort Hood and Central Texas are home to one of the largest concentrations of soldiers and families in our Army. We have tremendous pride in our soldiers’ exceptional character, competence, and commitment. 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 an enemy — a known enemy.

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.

At the incident scene, there were many acts of courage and bravery. Just by soldiers remembering their training, lives were saved. Were it not for their remarkable abilities, this incident could have been far worse.

KWAME HOLMAN: Army Chief of Staff General George Casey said the shootings, and the losses, were hard to conceive of.

GENERAL GEORGE CASEY, chief of staff, U.S. Army: The men and women who were killed had a — 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 our Army for a long time to come.

KWAME HOLMAN: The president and first lady Michelle Obama attended under heavy security, after consoling victims’ families in a private meeting. Then, the president offered words of sympathy and a promise to remember.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is a time of war, yet, these Americans did not die on a foreign field of battle. They were killed here on American soil in the heart of this great state, in the heart of this great American community.

This is the fact that makes the tragedy even more painful, even more incomprehensible.

But here is what you must also know. Your loved ones endure through the life of our nation. Their memory will be honored in the places they lived and by the people they touched. Their life’s work is our security and the freedom that we all too often take for granted.

KWAME HOLMAN: Mr. Obama did not name the alleged gunman, Major Nidal Hasan, but he insisted, justice would be done.

BARACK OBAMA: It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy. But this much we do know — no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts. No just and loving God looks upon them with favor. For what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice — in this world and the next.

KWAME HOLMAN: The president spoke in turn about each of those killed. And, later, the crowd stood silently as, by tradition, the unit’s roll was called, including the names of the 13.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Major Caraveo.

Sergeant 1st Class Long.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here, Sergeant Major!

KWAME HOLMAN: Six of the dead worked in the medical field, as did Major Hasan, an Army psychiatrist.

Sixty-two-year-old retired Chief Warrant Officer Michael Cahill was assisting with physical exams when he was shot. Major Libardo Caraveo, age 52, worked with a combat stress unit. He was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. So were two others, Sergeant Amy Krueger, age 29, a mental health specialist, and 51-year-old Russell Seager, a nurse practitioner specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder.

Fifty-six-year-old Captain John Gaffaney was a psychiatric nurse about to go to Iraq for a year. And Lieutenant Colonel Juanita Warman also was headed to Iraq. She was a military physician’s assistant, 55 years old.

Six others were preparing for combat tours, including Staff Sergeant Justin DeCrow, age 32, due to deploy to Iraq, and Specialist Jason Hunt, age 22, preparing for his second deployment to Iraq. Specialist Frederick Greene, 29 years old, was set to leave for Afghanistan in January. So was Private 1st Class Kham Xiong, preparing for his first-ever deployment at the age of 23.

And 19-year-old Private 1st Class Aaron Nemelka, he had joined the Army straight out of high school. Private 1st Class Michael Pearson, age 22, was on notice to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan in January.

And one soldier, 21-year-old Private Francheska Velez, was returning home from Iraq because she was three months pregnant.

As the memorial service ended, the victims received a final twenty-one gun salute.

KWAME HOLMAN: And for long moments afterward, victims’ families, joined by the president and Mrs. Obama, filed past the individual displays honoring each of the dead.

JIM LEHRER: We will have an update on the investigation into the Fort Hood killings later in the program.