VICENZA, Italy — Michelle Obama's thoughts turned to those grieving for nine people killed in a U.S. church as she visited Friday with American soldiers and their families stationed in northern Italy.

"We have seen too many tragedies like this," Mrs. Obama said of the attack in a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. "There is something particularly horrifying about something that happens so senseless in a house of worship."

She added: "I pray for a community that I know is in pain with the hope that tragedies like these will one day come to an end."

The U.S. first lady was visiting at the U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza, thanking hundreds of the troops and their families for their service.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday had expressed anger and sadness over the slayings at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

"As my husband said yesterday, simply saying our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and community of Charleston does not convey the heartache," Mrs. Obama said.

Her time with the troops and their families included reading a book to children, and visiting with about 30 expectant mothers to discuss the challenges faced by military families overseas. The families live in an area that includes housing units and an elementary and middle school.

She spent a good half hour giving hugs and shaking hands. Her daughters Malia and Sasha helped her scoop out ice cream. About 500 people were attending a barbecue on the middle school's athletic fields.

Mrs. Obama in 2011 launched the "Joining Forces" initiative, calling on Americans to rally around the military.

She has spent the past two days in Milan promoting the healthy eating agenda behind her "Let's Move" initiative in conjunction with Milan's Expo 2015 world's fair focusing on food and nutrition. Her four-stop trip started in London and will wrap up in Venice.