UMHB 2009 graduate Matt Caskey thought Thursday, Nov. 5, would be a typical work day at Fort Hood. But he was wrong.
When someone came into the office in the early afternoon telling him the post was on lockdown, he didn’t believe it at first. Soon after, someone else came with the same warning.
Caskey works as a cost price analyst at Fort Hood and was working inside the III Corps building near the main gate.
That day, a shooting at the post ended with 13 people dead and 29 wounded. Security police critically injured the suspected shooter, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who remains in critical but stable condition at Brooke Army
Medical Center in San Antonio.
The impending danger left Caskey in disbelief.
“It doesn’t really hit you at the moment,” he told The Bells. “(But) once I saw it on TV, it really started to sink in … seeing a building right next to us on CNN.”
Killeen, Texas, just 23 miles from UMHB, is the home of the largest military post in the United States. The attack within its gates shocked people across the nation, particularly soldiers stationed at Fort Hood.
Spc. Kelly Robertson told The Bells, “I honestly can’t believe it’s soldiers. I really can’t.”
Robertson said the tragedy will affect the way citizens view service men and women.
“I know it’s going to give soldiers a bad name, but … this isn’t the Army. This is not what the Army is about. This is individuals.”
Thirty-nine-year-old Hasan was a psychiatrist at Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood.
When Spc. Jessica Achibareo heard that the suspected shooter was a major, she told The Bells, “It’s breathtakingly stunning that it would be someone with that kind of power, that kind of influence of soldiers, who would take soldiers’ lives and take them away from their families. I just don’t understand.”
The shooting occurred in the Soldiers Readiness Processing Center as many of the soldiers were preparing to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan.
It was the busiest day of the week in the building according to a Bells source who lives on Fort Hood and is a military spouse.
Robertson said that citizens should not stereotype members of the service because the perpetrator was a soldier.
“All soldiers are not like this …. Don’t judge us as a whole on these individuals’ actions,” she said.
Junior youth ministry major Bethany Carter’s father is a retired chaplain’s assistant and is now a youth minister for Fort Hood. Her family invited several military young people to their house because of early school dismissal the day of the shooting.
She said the “kids were with us when they heard the news” and described them as being “very shocked and angry.”
She said her family helps lead a youth group on base every Tuesday and Wednesday night, so her life is intertwined with military members.
Carter said, “My family’s lives are pretty much spent on the base now.”
Because of the proximity of UMHB to Killeen, many members of the faculty, staff and student body have personal connections to those affected by the shooting.
In memory of the lives lost, the university participated in a moment of silence proclaimed by Fort Hood on Friday, Nov. 6, at 1:35 p.m., 24 hours after the shooting. Students also took part in a special time of prayer during the weekly chapel service held in the W.W. Walton Chapel.
University President Dr. Randy O’Rear said, “We extend our condolences to all those affected by this tragedy. Our prayers will be for their strength and healing in the difficult days to come.”
As a witness of the chaos that occurred, Caskey said the event shook him.
“A crisis like this really opened my eyes,” he said. “People need to be thankful for what (they) have been given by God.”
Stacy Fannin, Brittany Montgomery, Evangeline Ciupek and Mary Beth Kelton contributed to this story.