Fort Hood killings: Teary soldiers, kin laud eulogist Obama for grieving with them

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Fort Hood (Texas, US), Nov.11 (ANI): Many soldiers and relatives expressed a tearful gratitude to US President Barack Obama for taking on the role of a national eulogist here on Tuesday to help them grieve for those killed and injured last week by a US Army Muslim psychiatrist.

"It's great that the president takes the time to come when there is so much on his plate," the New York Times quoted First Lt. Steven Aoyagi, 24, a helicopter pilot, as saying.

"It's good to know this won't get swept under the carpet, because a lot of soldiers don't feel safe right now. They need to have confidence in their leaders," he added.

Staff Sgt. Lorena Brand, 40, tears welling in her eyes, said the visit would focus national attention on the troops and the continuing terrorism threat.

"Those of us who serve, it seems we're always being overlooked," Sergeant Brand said. "So his coming, it puts the military and soldiers first, instead of feeling we're always at the bottom of the list after the firefighters and police," she said.

"It really doesn't matter what he says. It's his presence here that really matters," said a tearful Specialist Beau Taylor, who was injured by roadside bombs in Iraq and watched the ceremony on crutches.

Obama took on the role of national eulogist on Tuesday for the first time since assuming office as he led the country in mourning the 13 active and retired soldiers gunned down here on their home post by one of their own, Major Nidal Malik Hasan.

Obama vowed that the memory of those slain in a rampage here last week would "endure through the life of our nation."

"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," the president told thousands of soldiers and relatives gathered here at the nation's largest Army post.

Obama was careful in not using the word Muslim, but praised the diversity of the military.

"They are," he said, "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," he said.

He also listed the names of those killed and described their hopes and dreams and the families they left behind.

The service was held on a bright, warm afternoon five days after the attacks at a processing center for deploying troops, where witnesses said Major Hasan opened fire after saying "Allahu akbar," Arabic for "God is great."

Obama, accompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama and military leaders, met with survivors of the attack and loved ones of those killed.

Security was tight amid the playing of taps, the singing of "Amazing Grace," the roll call of the missing and the ceremonial volley of gunfire.

More than 100 massive shipping containers were stacked to form a wall around part of the field, while sharpshooters were positioned on the roof of the III Corps building behind the lectern.

The victims ranged in age from 19 to 62. Ten were men and three were women; between them they had 19 children, with another on the way.

"It was a kick in the gut," said General George W. Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff.

General Casey vowed that the Army would persevere. "Grieve with us," he said. "Don't grieve for us."

The Army says 1,977 active-duty soldiers identify themselves as Muslim, out of a total of 553,000. But probably many more Muslims in uniform do not disclose their religion, experts say. (ANI)

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