April 9, 2014 -- CSA's remarks at Fort Hood Memorial Ceremony
April 11, 2014
Good afternoon, everyone. We come together today to care for our Soldiers and their Families who together, sacrificed so much over the last 13 years of war. We come together as an Army Family to grieve the sudden and tragic loss of four of our own. We come together to help sixteen wounded Soldiers heal. And we come together to stand beside the Families of the fallen and injured in their time of need. President and Mrs. Obama, your presence here today speaks volumes of your unwavering support and compassion for our Soldiers and their Families. Distinguished members of Congress thank you for coming down here today, Deputy Secretary of Defense Fox, Secretary of the Army McHugh, GEN and Mrs. Dempsey, Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst and other distinguished state leaders, thank you for your support and for your contributions to Fort Hood. Most importantly, I want to thank the Soldiers, Families and civilians of Fort Hood and the surrounding community. I want to thank Lieutenant General Mark Milley and Command Sergeant Major Scott Schroeder, we are fortunate to have such experienced, dedicated leaders to guide us through these difficult days.
Our job as leaders is to prepare Soldiers for the chaos of war. The loss of any Soldier in any circumstance is a tragedy for a unit or for a Family. Yet somehow the loss of comrades in the heat of battle is a risk that we understand, and with time, we can accept.
That these Soldiers were lost on American soil and at the hands of one of their own makes this tragedy heartbreaking and inexplicable. This especially hits home for Linda and me because Fort Hood and the greater Central Texas community has been my Family's home away from home for more than seven years. Having served as a commander here at the brigade, the 4th Infantry Division, and III Corps, I have personally experienced the warmth and resiliency of the Soldiers and the Families of this community. The Fort Hood Family has been central to the Army's success over the last thirteen years of war, sharing in our victories and grieving when we lost those dearest to us. You were there for us and for our Families when we deployed forces, whether it be to Iraq or Afghanistan. You were there for us as we struggled to understand and recover from the events of November 5th, 2009 and the loss of thirteen people. Today, we are all here to tell you and to show you that our Army and our Nation are here for you.
We cannot help but feel the echoes of that most horrible day in the tragedy we now face. For many across the Fort Hood community, the events last week reopened the wounds of five years ago. We are heartbroken that those same units and Soldiers, Families and communities who have supported unit after unit deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and sacrificed so much must endure yet another burden. But we must come together, as an Army, as a community, and as a Nation, to learn from Wednesday's tragic events and support and heal one another. We must come together to identify the risk factors that lead to violence, to address the challenges of mental illness, and to enhance the resiliency of our Soldiers and their Families. Anytime a Soldier believes hurting oneself or others is a solution to the problems they face, we must ensure that the Army Family is there for them, to show them another way forward, and to lift them from their despair. Lost to us on Wednesday were three Soldiers with more than fifty years of service in the United States Army. Sergeant First Class Danny Ferguson served for nearly 21 years on assignments across our Army and around the world including four deployments. His fiancée recently shared with us that the Army was Danny's life. "He was proud to be part of a great service." Staff Sergeant Carlos Lazaney Rodriguez followed in the footsteps of his father to enlist from his hometown in Puerto Rico. During his nearly 20 year career, Carlos was known for being a meticulous Soldier, leading from the front with a tough but kind, down-to-earth nature. Sergeant Timothy Owens enlisted in the Army in 2004 and served for more than ten years as a Motor Transport Operator, including two deployments to Iraq and Kuwait. The loss of these three Soldiers is a terrible tragedy to our Army Family. Our hearts and prayers go out to each of the Soldiers' Families and their units.
Every day, we learn from witnesses and the wounded about the heroic actions of first responders who prevented the loss of even more lives. We are indebted to the first military police officer on the scene, a Soldier in the 89th Military Police Brigade, who advanced alone to confront the shooter in an effort to halt his rampage. We have learned of an Army chaplain who sought to protect his fellow Soldiers by breaking windows and helping them to escape the shooting. Then there was the heroism of SFC Ferguson and Major Patrick Miller, who were shot while trying to protect others behind closed doors; they blocked the advance of the shooter and undoubtedly saved the lives of many Soldiers. And we are grateful for the rapid reaction and exceptional professionalism of all the emergency responders and hospital triage teams whose actions were nothing short of extraordinary.
There are certain people who are able to step up in the most difficult times and do something heroic. No one quite understands what characteristics will cause someone to display incredible courage or sacrifice their own safety. But we see it time and time again from the Soldiers of this great Army. The large majority of our Soldiers have shown incredible resiliency and personal growth in the face of repeated deployments as well as the normal stress of our everyday lives. But there are some who have struggled to bounce back and find peace among life's inherent challenges. We do not know why one Soldier is strengthened by tough times but another cannot see a way forward; but we must and will be there for them.
In the days and months ahead, our highest priority will be to care for our wounded service-members, their Families and the Families of the fallen. We will also do everything within our power to investigate every detail to learn, to adapt and to protect our most valuable resource, the men and women of the U.S. Army.
I have once again been touched by the inherent strength of the American spirit that our country was built upon. I am inspired by the stories about Soldiers, Families, Civilians, communities, businesses and private organizations giving so generously of themselves and their resources -- the Family Readiness Groups, the Red Cross, and the USO and local businesses that immediately reached out to our Fort Hood Family.
As we have during other difficult times, we will have strength in unity. We will all stand together as a community. We will all stand together as an Army. And we will all stand together as a Nation. We will lift each other up with our compassion, our strength, and resilience because that is who we are.
The strength of our Nation is our Army
The strength of our Army is our Soldiers
The strength of our Soldiers is our Families.
This is what makes us Army Strong!