According to The Associated Press, the Navy expected roughly 4,000 people for the memorial service, which was closed to the public. Families of the victims sat in the front row and both families and naval officers were seen breaking down during the service.
One young woman with red hair sitting beside the first lady appeared to sob through nearly all of the memorial service. After the service the president and first lady hugged families of the victims.
For the president, such somber occasions have become all too familiar.
Obama has spoken at the memorials for four of the past five mass shootings. And although he did not attend the formal program in Aurora, he met personally with the families of the dozen killed and 58 wounded on the day of that service.
On the day of the Navy Yard shooting the president expressed his frustration with the high frequency of such tragedies when he called it, "yet another mass shooting," and again hinted at the limits of his power in a televised interview the following day.
Speaking with Spanish-language network Telemundo he suggested that stronger background checks on gun purchases might have prevented this latest attack.
"Initial reports indicate that this is an individual who may have had some mental health problems," he said. "The fact that we do not have a firm enough background-check system is something that makes us more vulnerable to these kinds of mass shootings."
A May ABC News/Washington Post poll found 83 percent of Americans support expanded and strengthened checks for all sales, but movement on heightened gun control remains stalled in Congress.