News Articles

Obama cites troops’ defense of freedom

KILLEEN, Texas (BP)–At a memorial service at Fort Hood, President Obama placed the slaying of 12 servicemen and one civilian in the context of America’s defense of freedom at home and abroad.

Obama also noted that one of the slain soldiers was an expectant mother.

Obama and his wife Michelle traveled to Fort Hood, the nation’s largest military base in Killeen, Texas, for the Nov. 10 memorial service.

Obama spoke from a podium behind a row of memorials for the victims — each with a picture of the deceased, a pair of combat boots and a rifle topped with a helmet.

The alleged gunman, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist and a Muslim, remains hospitalized at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio with several abdominal wounds that halted his Nov. 5 rampage at Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Center. In addition to the dead, 29 were wounded, more than a dozen of whom remain hospitalized.

Obama, in his remarks, though not mentioning Hasan by name, stated that “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.”

“These are trying times for our country,” the president continued, according a transcript of his 2,000-word address posted at the White House’s website. “In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the same extremists who killed nearly 3,000 Americans continue to endanger America, our allies, and innocent Afghans and Pakistanis. In Iraq, we’re working to bring a war to a successful end, as there are still those who would deny the Iraqi people the future that Americans and Iraqis have sacrificed so much for.

“As we face these challenges, the stories of those [who were killed] at Fort Hood reaffirm the core values that we are fighting for, and the strength that we must draw upon. Theirs are the tales of American men and women answering an extraordinary call — the call to serve their comrades, their communities, and their country. 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….

“This generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have volunteered in the time of certain danger,” Obama said. “They are part of the finest fighting force that the world has ever known. They have served tour after tour of duty in distant, different and difficult places. They have stood watch in blinding deserts and on snowy mountains. They have extended the opportunity of self-government to peoples that have suffered tyranny and war. They are man and woman; white, black, and brown; of all faiths and all stations — all Americans, serving together to protect our people, while giving others half a world away the chance to lead a better life.

“In today’s wars, there’s not always a simple ceremony that signals our troops’ success — no surrender papers to be signed, or capital to be claimed. But the measure of the impact of these young men and women is no less great — in a world of threats that know no borders, their legacy will be marked in the safety of our cities and towns, and the security and opportunity that’s extended abroad. It will serve as testimony to the character of those who served, and the example that all of you in uniform set for America and for the world.”

In speaking a few words about each of the deceased, Obama said Pvt. Francheska Velez, 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.”

President and Mrs. Obama, during their four-hour visit to Fort Hood, visited with families of those who were killed and with those who were wounded and still hospitalized at Fort Hood’s medical center and others who had been released.

In addition to Velez, a ceremonial “roll call” of the dead honored Maj. Libardo Eduardo Caraveo; Staff Sgt. Justin DeCrow; Capt. John Gaffaney; Spc. Frederick Greene; Spc. Jason Hunt; Sgt. Amy Krueger; Pfc. Aaron Nemelka; Pfc. Michael Pearson; Capt. Russell Seager; Lt. Col. Juanita Warman; Spc. Kham Xiong; and civilian Michael Cahill, a former National Guardsman.
Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.