A crowd of about 3,000 gathered on the parade grounds in front of III Corps Headquarters last week to honor those killed and wounded in a deadly on-post shooting April 2.
Several speakers, including President Barack Obama, spoke at the April 9 ceremony, offering words of comfort to the families of the three soldiers who lost their lives in the attack.
“Today is a day of mourning,” Lt. Gen Mark A. Milley, commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, told the crowd. “But it is also a day to honor their lives.”
Those three men, Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Michael Ferguson, 39, of Mulberry, Fla.; Staff Sgt. Carlos A. Lazaney-Rodriguez, 38, of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico; and Sgt. Timothy Wayne Owens, 37, of Effingham, Ill., all hailed from small towns, and had more than 50 years of military service and nine deployments between them.
In the wake of the shooting, it was revealed that all three men attempted to stop the shooter, 34-year-old Spc. Ivan Lopez, and save their fellow soldiers.
Ferguson and Rodriguez attempted to block the shooter’s advance and saved the lives of other soldiers. Owens was reportedly shot while walking toward Lopez, trying to calm him down.
The scene outside the III Corps Headquarters was a sadly familiar one. A similar ceremony was held there in 2009 in the wake of another tragic shooting on Fort Hood. In that attack, former Army Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 people and wounded 32 others.
“We cannot help but feel the echo of that horrible day in the tragedy that we now face,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno.
Odierno, who served as commander of III Corps and Fort Hood from 2006 to 2008, said the fact that both shooting occurred on post only made the situation more tragic.
“Our job as leaders is to prepare soldiers for the chaos of war ... yet somehow the loss of comrades in heat of battle is a risk we understand, and with time, we can accept,” Odierno said. “That these soldiers were lost on American soil at the hands of one of our own makes this tragedy heartbreaking and inexplicable.”
The president shared a similar sentiment is his remarks.
“This tragedy tears at wounds still raw from five years ago. Once more, soldiers who survived foreign war zones were struck down here at home, where they’re supposed to be safe. We still do not yet know exactly why,” Obama said.
The ceremony ended with a roll call for the three fallen soldiers, taps, and a 21-gun salute.
“They are not gone, they are not forgotten, and they never will be,” Milley said. “Every day we will honor them by striving to be worthy of their sacrifice.”
Contact Chris McGuinness at email@example.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.