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VIA: USA Today

VIA: USA Today

It felt like a memorial service for soldiers killed in battle. Framed portraits of the dead with 13 pairs of combat boots, each with an inverted rifle topped with a helmet lined up in a row on a sunny day.

But it wasn’t a battlefield.

It was Fort Hood, Texas, home to about 70,000 people, where suspect Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan fired off more than 100 rounds killing 13 and wounding 29.

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrived to the service on Tuesday to bagpipes and the national anthem after they met with families of those who were killed and wounded.

The president stood before the crowd of soldiers, victims’ families and dignitaries and paid tribute to those who died.

“This is a time of war and these Americans did not die on a foreign field of battle,” Obama said. “They were killed here on American soil … It’s the fact that makes the tragedy ever more painful, even more incomprehensible.”

The mood was somber before Obama arrived as music played from the 16-piece 1st Calvary Division Band. Some of the soldiers wounded in Thursday’s attack hobbled down stairs to the stage area. Some walked down leaning on family members or were pushed in wheelchairs. Others had bullet-ridden arms in slings.

Thousands of people arrived at the service, which looked like a sea of military fatigues, men and women of all ages and color, many wearing white ribbons to honor those who died.

The crowd kept growing until minutes before the service began. It was the biggest memorial service at Fort Hood in recent memory and included a battalion of U.S. officials, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. John McCain and U.S. Rep. Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., Illinois.

The victims of the shooting rampage range in age from 19 to 62. Among them were 21-year-old Pvt. Francheska Velez, who was pregnant and preparing to return home after a recent deployment in Iraq, and Spc. Jason Hunt, a 22-year-old who served in Iraq and was married two months ago.

Read more here.

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