President Barack Obama plans to attend a memorial service Wednesday at Fort Hood, the site of last week’s shooting rampage, a White House aide said Sunday.
A Fort Hood spokesman confirmed that a remembrance ceremony is scheduled, and presidential adviser Dan Pfeiffer told CBS’ Face the Nation that Obama will be there.
An Army truck driver, Sgt. Ivan Lopez, had an argument before opening fire at the Texas post Wednesday, killing three soldiers and wounding 16 others before taking his own life, investigators say. Fort Hood’s commander hasn’t discussed the cause of the argument.
The attack was the second at the base since 2009, when 13 people were killed in a shooting by an Army psychiatrist.
On Sunday at Tabernacle Baptist Church, just outside the sprawling Central Texas post, what would have been a routine service became a tribute to the slain soldiers. It also offered some catharsis for the community struggling to comprehend Fort Hood’s second fatal shooting rampage in less than five years.
Similar somber religious gatherings were held throughout the military town of Killeen, but there were more questions than answers.
“A lot of us, I think this morning, are asking the question ‘Why? Why would this happen? Why Fort Hood again? Why are these types of things allowed to happen?’ ” Pastor Robert Sperbeck told dozens gathered at Tabernacle, where 90 percent of the congregation is current or retired military personnel. “The devil is the author of what happened on Wednesday, but we do know the answer; we know there is hope.”
Investigators said Lopez, who hailed from Puerto Rico, argued with soldiers in his unit moments before killing three people and wounding 16 others and then fatally shooting himself. Base officials have said Lopez, who saw no combat during a deployment to Iraq, was being treated for depression and anxiety while being assessed for post-traumatic stress disorder.
The shooting immediately revived memories of the November 2009 attack by Maj. Nidal Hassan, who killed 13 and wounded more than 30 people.
Residents have also held a march and a vigil, and Killeen’s Central Christian Church erected a memorial with a trio of crosses honoring those killed and 16 flags for the wounded.
At Tabernacle, Sperbeck led the singing of Amazing Grace, passed a collection plate for the shooting victims and read the names of the slain soldiers.
He said Sgt. Daniel Ferguson, 39, of Florida “died a hero,” noting that he was killed while holding a door shut to keep the gunman from entering a room and targeting more people.
The pastor said that Staff Sgt. Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez, 38, of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, was a 20-year army veteran who was just seven months from retirement. And Sgt. Timothy Owens, 37, of Effingham, Ill., “had planned to make a career serving in the military.”
“Lord, we pray for the military, for our fort where there are many that are without hope, that are in the midst of depression,” Sperbeck said. “They need help and we’re here to help them.”
As she listened, tears streamed down the face of Kathy Abad, 31, whose military police officer husband was at Fort Hood at the time of the shooting but didn’t see the attack.
“My heart is shattered for all the families,” Abad said afterward. “It hits home, feeling the loss of wives and mothers and entire families. Wounds have been reopened.”
After the 2009 shooting, Fort Hood tightened security. Abad said that in the days since Lopez’s rampage, even more measures have been imposed. She said her husband reports that post officials have begun stopping nearly every car heading into the base to search for weapons, even though commanders insist that can’t continue forever for logistic reasons.
Fort Hood covers 340 square miles, with more than 40,000 soldiers living on post and 80,000-plus military and civilian employees and contractors coming to work there every day.
“We do expect security to be very high right now,” Abad said. “I think that’s important.”