President Obama used a Fort Hood memorial service honoring 13 service members slain last week to reflect on the sacrifices of all service members, saying "we are a nation that endures because of the courage of all those who defend it."
The memorial service, coming the day before Veterans Day, punctuates a tragic episode for the military after the worst military-on-military attack on American soil. But it also comes as Mr. Obama prepares to make a final decision on whether to deploy thousands of more troops to Afghanistan to face the kind of dangers that hit home last week at Fort Hood.
In remarks that touched on each individual killed, Obama was demonstrating the solemnity of the moment as much as the gravity of his decision to send more troops into harm's way.
"This generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen have volunteered in a time of certain danger," Obama said. "They have served tour after tour of duty in distant, different and difficult places ... serving together to protect our people, while giving others half a world away the chance to lead a better life."
Investigators are still trying to determine why shooting suspect Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly pulled out two handguns last Thursday and opened fire at a readiness center where soldiers were preparing to deploy overseas. But a nuanced portrait of Hasan has emerged in recent days.
An Army psychiatrist and a Muslim, Hasan held strident views about the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has been described by colleagues as a loner who had never deployed but may have been troubled by counseling men and women stuggling to deal with the violence and stress they encountered while in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Someone using the name Nidal Hasan had posted provocative entries about suicide bombing on the Internet.
In addition, federal investigators confirmed Monday that Hasan had communicated several times with an individual overseas, thought to be Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric now living in Yemen who has ties to Al Qaeda. Investigators say they dismissed the exchanges because they were seen as being consistent with academic research Hasan was conducting.
Hasan, who was shot four times by a base police officer soon after the shooting began, is recovering in an Army medical center. He has refused to speak with investigators.
Also Tuesday, various media reports indicate the White House is nearing an announcement on deploying more troops to Afghanistan. McClatchy Newspapers and CBS News have reported that he is considering a deployment of 34,000 to 40,000 more troops during the course of the next year, though the White House refuted the reports.
Obama's speech touched on the larger sacrifices troops will face in coming years.
"These are trying times for our country," Obama said. "In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the same extremists who killed nearly 3,000 Americans continue to endanger America, our allies, and innocent Afghans and Pakistanis."
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