FORT HOOD — No Army base in America has had more memorial services than this one.
In the last six years alone, more than 545 young men and women assigned to Fort Hood have died in Iraq or Afghanistan, their names inscribed on memorials around this massive Central Texas installation.
President Barack Obama, on his first presidential visit to the post, the day before Veterans Day, memorialized 13 more Tuesday, all of them killed, authorities believe, by a fellow soldier Thursday afternoon.
"This is a time of war," Obama said before about 15,000 soldiers, relatives, community members and political leaders gathered in front of the III Corps headquarters. "And 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 American community. It is this fact that makes the tragedy even more painful and even more incomprehensible.
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"... But here is what you must also know: Your loved ones endure through the life of our nation."
Obama, speaking in a subdued tone, spent the latter half of the speech recognizing all the men and women in the armed forces, saying that they "reaffirm the core values that we are fighting for and the strength that we must draw upon."
"We are a nation that endures because of the courage of those who defend it," he said. "We saw that valor in those who braved bullets here at Fort Hood, just as surely as we see it in those who signed up knowing that they would serve in harm’s way."
Accompanied on the trip by the first lady, the president said that Veterans Day is a chance to pause and remember those in the military today, not just those of World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
He singled out the current generation of service members for serving "tour after tour of duty in distant, different and difficult places," which Fort Hood knows well.
Elements of the 1st Cavalry Division returned from a yearlong deployment to Iraq on Tuesday night, the third time that division has deployed since 2004.
"As we honor the many generations who have served, I think all of us — every single American — must acknowledge that this generation has more than proved itself the equal of those who have come before," Obama said.
"We need not look to the past for greatness," he continued. "Because it is before our very eyes."
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