By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Fort Hood Herald
The sounds of roll call, three-volley salutes and Taps aren't new at Fort Hood.
Those all-to-familiar traditions are typically heard when honoring men and women killed in combat in faraway places. But, on Nov. 10 they filled the silence for 13 who lost their lives at home.
A soldier opened fire Nov. 5 at the Soldier Readiness Processing site at Fort Hood, killing and injuring scores of civilians and those in uniform.
Fort Hood has lost 545 soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, III Corps and Fort Hood commander, said during a memorial ceremony in the honor of the 13 fallen.
"But never did we expect to pay such a high price at home," he added.
This is a time of war, said President Barack Obama.
"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 and the heart of this great American community."
That fact made the tragedy even more painful and incomprehensible, he added.
The president and first lady were among the dignitaries who attended the memorial ceremony. Others included Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey Jr., Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, Army Secretary John McHugh, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, Sen. John McCain and various other Texas, Illinois, Minnesota and Utah senators and representatives.
Twelve reserve and active-duty soldiers and a civilian employee at the center were killed Thursday. The violence that led to their deaths was unimaginable, Casey said.
"It was a kick in the gut."
The 13 fallen came from 11 states and ranged in age from 19 to 62, Cone said. Three were women and 10 were men. Among them, there were 19 children and one on the way.
The general said that despite their differences, all volunteered to be part of something bigger than themselves.
"Our Army family deeply mourns the loss of your loved ones," he told the families.
No words could fill the void left in their lives, Obama said.
"We knew these men and women as soldiers and caregivers. You knew them as mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers," the president said.
It is in times like these that the Army family and local community pulls together, Cone said, and a commitment to the Army, country and family "will help us move forward." He, Casey and Obama heralded the efforts of other soldiers, caregivers and first responders who were present that day and risked their lives for one another.
The United States, nor the values upon which it was founded, could exist without people like the 13 killed, the president said.
"And that is why we must pay tribute to their stories. ... Their lives speak to the strength, the dignity, the decency of those who serve, and that's how they will be remembered," he said.
The stories of the men and women at Fort Hood reaffirm core values "we are fighting for, and the strength that we must draw upon," Obama said.
"Theirs are the tales of American men and women answering an extraordinary call – the call to serve their comrades, their communities and their country," he went on to say. "In an age of selfishness, they embody responsibility.
In an era of division, they call upon us to come together. In a time of cynicism, they remind us of who we are as Americans."
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at email@example.com or (254) 501-7547.