Several churches in Killeen, Texas are gathering to remember the victims of the latest mass shooting at Fort Hood. Yesterday morning, churches held memorial services, prayed and lit candles to commemorate the three soldiers killed in last week's attack, the second fatal shooting rampage on the base in five years.
Reverend Robert Sperbeck, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church, began his service by urging those attending to put their strength in God, quoting the Isaiah 35:4, which says "Be strong, fear not."
The pastor led the congregation in prayer, remembering both the victims of the shooting spree and their families.
"Lord we pray for the military, for our fort where there are many that are without hope, that are in the midst of depression," Sperbeck said. "They need help and we're here to help them."
After singing "Amazing Grace," members passed a collection plate for the shooting victims. Sperbeck read the names of the slain soldiers, and then addressed the looming question on everyone's mind: Why was Fort Hood attacked-again?
"A lot of us, I think this morning, are asking the question, 'Why? Why would this happen? Why Fort Hood again? Why are these types of things allowed to happen?'" Sperbeck stated to his congregation, which consists primarily of active or retired military personnel. "The devil is the author of what happened on Wednesday, but we do know the answer, we know there is hope."
Investigators say Spc. Ivan Lopez, an Army truck driver from Puerto Rico, had argued with soldiers in his unit prior to killing three people, injuring 16 others and then killing himself. Base officials have reported that Lopez, who saw no combat during a deployment to Iraq, was being treated for depression and anxiety while being assessed for post-traumatic stress disorder.
This tragedy reopened old wounds for members of Fort Hood; Nidal Hassan, an Army psychiatrist killed 13 and wounded more than 30 people at the base in November 2009.
Lt. Col. Les Maloney, a chaplain at Fort Hood who ministered to victims of the '09 shooting, stated that the psychological trauma connected with the Fort Hood shootings are deeply concerning.
"A lot of these soldiers have been deployed one or two times and have experienced being shot at - directly or indirectly - in Iraq or Afghanistan," said Maloney, a member of the Western Hills Church of Christ in Temple, Texas.
"But they breathe a sigh of relief when they make it back 'home,' a blessing that many of their fellow soldiers who fall on the battlefield do not experience."
Ret. Reverend C. Andrew Doyle, Bishop of Episcopal Diocese of Texas, says his church among others will be vigilant in supporting victims of the shooting.
"To serve and protect our country is a sacrifice and an honor. The women and men who offer themselves to this high calling should be safe at home at least. The shootings at Fort Hood are a tragic reminder that we must redouble our efforts to tend to our wounded in body, mind and spirit."
While the community still has more questions than answers, church members continue to find hope in God. "We don't understand why the devil keeps preying on our community," stated one congregation member, "But we do know that God is the ultimate comfort. All we can do is pray for the victims and lean on Him during this time."