By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 6, 2009 - President Barack Obama has ordered American flags to be flown at half-staff until Veterans Day in honor of the victims of yesterday's shooting at Fort Hood, Texas. Twelve soldiers and a civilian were killed and 30 others were wounded when Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan allegedly opened fire on the base in what the president described yesterday as a "horrific outburst of violence."
From now until the Nov. 11 Veterans Day observance, flags will fly at half-staff at the White House and other federal buildings.
"This is a modest tribute to those who lost their lives even as many were preparing to risk their lives for their country," Obama said today in the White House Rose Garden. "And it's also a recognition of the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect our safety and uphold our values.
"We honor their service, we stand in awe of their sacrifice, and we pray for the safety of those who fight and for the families of those who have fallen," he added.
Obama met this morning with FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and representatives of other relevant agencies to get an update on the ongoing investigation. He said his administration would continue providing details surrounding the attack as they emerge.
"We don't know all the answers yet, and I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all the facts," the president said. "What we do know is that there are family, friends and an entire nation grieving right now for the valiant men and women who came under attack yesterday in one of the worst mass shootings ever to take place on an American military base."
The sprawling Central Texas base covers some 340 square miles and is home to 40,000 soldiers. Officials there said they are focused on caring for the wounded, securing the base, notifying victims' families and providing grief counseling.
A family hotline is available to obtain information at 254-288-7570.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said today that Obama will attend a yet-to-be-scheduled memorial service for the victims. Noting that members of more than a dozen units from around the country were present when the shooting took place, Gibbs said notification of families was still ongoing and that any memorial service should be scheduled with the families' convenience in mind.
Officials have not established a motive for the shooting spree, Gibbs said, adding that the president discussed the attack's impact on troop morale in discussions yesterday with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.