Fort Hood community remembers lives lost 10 years ago on post
FORT HOOD — The day began with overcast skies, soon followed by a light rain. But by the time the ceremony began, the sun was shining and the U.S. flags at the Nov. 5, 2009, Memorial were flapping in the breeze.
Roughly 200 people had gathered at the memorial: Family members and friends of the 13 who were killed and 31 wounded 10 years ago by ex-Army Maj. Nidal Hasan; survivors, to include the Department of the Army policeman who ended Hasan’s shooting spree; U.S. Congressmen; members of the community; and members of the committee who made the memorial possible.
They were all there to show the families the support of the community, and to remind them of a promise: Their loved ones would not be forgotten.
“Today we stand at this great memorial not only to remember those who lost their lives, but also as a tribute to who and what they represented,” said Killeen Mayor Jose Segarra, an Army veteran. “They represented those who were willing to serve our nation, one way or another, so that communities like ours can enjoy the freedoms that we live by and enjoy.”
After the mayor welcomed those in attendance and thanked the family members of those killed for traveling across the country to be there, a prayer was said and the Pledge of Allegiance recited.
Then, one of the men most responsible for the creation of the memorial and the mayor of Killeen at the time of the shooting spoke of why he, and many other members of the community, felt so strongly that a memorial to those lives taken too soon was needed.
Timothy Hancock, a retired Army command sergeant major, was on post at the time of the shooting. He recalled feeling fear and concern when the post was locked down and no one was allowed to leave. And he recalled a lack of comprehension about how anyone could commit such a heinous crime.
So when the Killeen City Council was approached about the idea of a memorial in 2010, he and the council were completely on board with the idea.
“It was to be built wholly by volunteers,” Hancock said. “Little did we know what was going to go into this memorial — and how are we going to do this strictly on donations?”
It would take years, he said. Contractors were needed, developers, builders, funds and donations in kind.
When the prospects of getting the project completed were looking bleak, the committee set up to get the memorial built approached Terry E. Gandy, vice president and general manager of the Killeen Daily Herald, for assistance.
“He advised us, and we took his advice,” Hancock said. “And we got moving along.”
On March 11, 2016, the memorial was finally dedicated. The purpose of building it in Killeen and not on Fort Hood, Hancock said, was for the families.
“The family members who are here today, represent states and cities that are not in Central Texas,” he said. “Our hope was to build a facility where ... if you happen to come through, and wanted to stop by... we wanted you to know that we have not forgotten.”
Not all of the 12 soldiers and one civilian killed — who happened to be a retired soldier — had a family member available to speak on their behalf at the memorial, but each had either a family member, friend or memorial committee member read the inscriptions on their individual monument within the memorial.
The memorial contains a black granite pyramid in its center with a 60-foot flagpole rising from it, Troy Kelley, the designer and sculptor of the pieces memorializing those who died, said the flag flies 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with four lights keeping the flag lit at night, to honor those who died.
“Around the outside edge of the memorial are 13 black granite columns for the 14 that were killed,” Kelley said. “Notice I said 14 instead of 13 — there was an unborn baby that was killed. Ms. Francheska Velez was pregnant.”
The two U.S. Representatives who represent Fort Hood attended the ceremony. They spoke with family members and some of those who were shot that day who came to represent those who survived.
“I think everybody around here knows where they were when they heard about (the shooting),” said U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, whose district covers parts of Fort Hood. “The memorial is fantastic — we need to continue to improve it. To hear the stories from the families and the loved ones about those we honor is really special.”
Four years after the terrorist attack at Fort Hood, Williams and U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, championed legislation in the House of Representatives to ensure the victims received full benefits and awards equal to those of their deployed counterparts, including the Purple Heart. In 2015, the U.S. Army announced they would receive the award.
“Over the last decade, we have seen extraordinary resilience and an outpouring of support from our community coming together to heal — and because of it, we have showed the world the very best of America,” Williams said. “I am forever grateful for the heroic actions of those who brought an end to the violence, and my prayers are with the families of those taken far too soon. Our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line every day to protect our freedom and we will never forget the stories of our fallen brothers and sisters.”
On Nov. 5, 2009, Carter was in his office in Washington, D.C., when he received a phone call from his local representative for the Fort Hood area. His representative happened to be attending a college graduation for soldiers on behalf of the congressman.
Shots had been fired. His representative, a former military chaplain, told the congressman he was headed toward the gunshots to see if they needed the help of a chaplain.
“It seems like it was the day before yesterday, it really does. It was a traumatic event,” said Carter, whose district includes parts of Fort Hood. “He said, ‘Just stick with me,’ and he ran over there. He said, ‘Oh my God, there are a lot of people hurt.’ So I knew that before anybody. I called my staff and said, ‘get me on a plane,’ and I headed to Killeen.”
Unfortunately, the lawyer and judge said, he was unsure when the families and the wounded would finally see justice. While Hasan was convicted of the killings on Aug. 23, 2013, and sentenced to death, his execution is still pending due to appeals.
“In Texas, we now have a fast track on the death penalty, but the federal government doesn’t,” Carter said. “I’ve done five capital murder cases (in Texas practice) and they draw out for a long time before the appeal process is finally done. Even in the state, with fast track, they draw out for two to five years.”
The 13 killed by Hasan were Lt. Col. Juanita Warman, Maj. Libardo Caraveo, Capt. John Gaffaney, Capt. Russell G. Seager, Staff Sgt. Justin DeCrow, Staff Sgt. Amy Krueger, Spc. Frederick Greene, Spc. Jason Hunt, Spc. Kham Xiong, Pfc. Aaron Nemelka, Pfc. Michael Pearson, Pfc. Francheska Velez and retired Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael Cahill.
Those wounded in the attack were:
Lt. Col. Randy Royer
Capt. Dorothy Carskadon
Capt. Lt. Brandy Mason
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Christopher Royal
Staff Sgt. Michael Davis
Staff Sgt. Alvin Howard
Staff Sgt. Eric Jackson
Staff Sgt. Shawn Manning
Staff Sgt. Paul Martin
Staff Sgt. Joy Clark (Nelson)
Staff Sgt. Thuan Nguyen
Staff Sgt. Miguel Valdivia
Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler Jr.
Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford Jr.
Sgt. Nathan Hewitt
Sgt. Keara Torkelson (Bono)
Spc. Logan Burnett
Spc. Matthew Cooke
Spc. Dayna Roscoe (Ferguson)
Spc. Grant Moxon
Spc. John Pagel
Spc. James Armstrong
Spc. Mick Engnehl
Spc. Najee Hull
Pfc. Justin Johnson
Pfc. Jonathan Sims
Pfc. George Stratton III
Pvt. Alan Carroll
Pvt. Joseph Foster
Pvt. Amber Gadlin (Bahr)
DA Police Sgt. Kimberly Munley