The bark of a 21-gun salute and a mournful "Taps" puncutated the silence today as several thousand soldiers, family members and survivors gave an emotional farewell to the 13 victims of the Fort Hood massacre.
The service, which included President Obama and the first lady, was rich in grim Army traditions. The ceremony was centered around a haunting row of framed pictures of the dead in front of a traditional Army salute to fallen soldiers: a rifle jutting out of empty boots with the soldiers' helmets on top.
At the conclusion of "Taps" and the singing of "Amazing Grace" by an Army sergeant, Obama and his wife silently stopped in front of each photograph and left a commander's "challenge coin," another military tradition intended to honor a soldier's achievement.
Some of the injured followed the president to the 13 memorials, many breaking down in tears.
And just before the conclusion of the ceremony, a master sergeant conducted a roll call, including the names of the dead, the silence echoing across the post as the names of the fallen victims went unanswered.
Twelve of the dead were members of the Army while the 13th victim was a retired soldier.
Obama told the thousands gathered for the service, "It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy. But this much we do know -- no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts. ... And for what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice -- in this world, and the next."
While never mentioning accused shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan or his Muslilm faith, Obama made several references to the ongoing wars against Islamic militants in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"This is a time of war. And yet these Americans did not die on a foreign field of battle," Obama said. "They were killed here, on American soil, in the heart of this great American community. It is this fact that makes the tragedy even more painful and even more incomprehensible."
Emphasizing the awful irony of the soldiers dying on a base in the United States, the president said, "Here, at Fort Hood, we pay tribute to 13 men and women who were not able to escape the horror of war, even in the comfort of home."
Obama spoke briefly about each of the 13 killed, saying, "Their lives speak to the strength, the dignity and the decency of those who serve, and that is how they will be remembered."
"So we say goodbye to those who now belong to eternity. We press ahead in pursuit of the peace that guided their service," Obama concluded.
Before the service began, the crowd stood silently as families of the slain were escorted into the service by members of the military. Many of the 43 wounded then hobbled into the service on crutches, some grabbing handrails as they struggled down a flight of steps, others cradling their arms in slings.
The president and first lady Michelle Obama began the afternoon by meeting privately with family members of those killed last week on this enormous Army post. The Obamas also were meeting with those wounded in the attack and released from the hospital, along with their families, before the president was to speak at the outdoor memorial service.
Lt. Gen. Robert Cone spoke first at the memorial, saying that the military community will "never be accustomed to losing one of their own."