Baptist chaplain opens Fort Hood memorial service

Chief of Staff of the Army General Raymond T. Odierno pays respect to three fallen soldiers during a ceremony at III Corps headquarters at the sprawling Fort Hood Army base outside Killeen. (BP Photo copyright Bob Daemmrich/Corbis, used with permission)

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FORT HOOD—Chaplain Matthew M. Goff opened a Fort Hood memorial service honoring soldiers slain and wounded in a shooting spree by asking God to “walk with us to the valley of our grief.”

Goff, a Southern Baptist chaplain, prayed before a crowd of soldiers in camouflage fatigues plus civilians gathered under a cloudless blue sky while an American flag fluttered at half-staff.

forthood goff350Southern Baptist Chaplain Matthew M. Goff opened the memorial service with prayer. (Fort Hood Public Affairs Image)“Almighty God, as we enter this sacred moment of memorial, we acknowledge you, the God of all comfort and mercy,” he prayed.

Goff named the three soldiers killed in the rampage, then he thanked God for “their selfless service to the nation and for the legacy they leave behind.”

The service memorialized the lives lost and acknowledged families who were grieving deaths or caring for loved ones wounded during the April 2 tragedy at the sprawling Army post near Killeen.

In front of the podium, three sets of helmets, rifles and dog tags formed the traditional battlefield crosses to show honor and respect for a fallen comrade, although these soldiers did not die in war. Sgt.1st Class Daniel Ferguson, Sgt. Timothy Owens and Sgt. Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez died stateside, at the hands of a fellow soldier.

Fort Hood Commander Lt. General Mark Milley described the slain soldiers as answering their nation’s call in a time of war and noted their service careers totaled more than 50 years. Of 16 other soldiers wounded in the gunfire, four remained hospitalized in stable condition and those recovered had reported back for duty, he reported.

forthood obamaPresident Obama spoke of the bravery of soldiers involved, singling out two who gave their lives to save others in the line of fire. (Fort Hood Public Affairs Image)President Obama spoke of the bravery of soldiers involved, singling out two who gave their lives to save others in the line of fire.

Referring to Ferguson and Owens, he said: “As we’ve heard, when the gunman tried to push his way into that room, Danny held the door shut, saving the lives of others while sacrificing his own. Timothy, the counselor, then gave his life by walking toward the gunman, trying to calm him down.”

At the service’s emotional conclusion, riflemen fired three volleys representing those killed. A solemn trumpeter played taps.

Doug Carver, executive director for chaplaincy with the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board, noted, “This tragic event highlights the critically important ministry of chaplains, often the first people military leadership turns to in situations like this.”

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