Families of Fort Hood, Texas, are starting the healing process as they wade
through feelings of grief, distrust and pain after a shooting Nov. 5 that left 13 adults and one unborn child dead.
A memorial service Nov. 11 on post marked the start of a new beginning, one with the servicemen and women of Fort Hood wrapped in the arms of the community.
The shooting also left 43 soldiers and civilians wounded. Thirty-four of those injured were from gunshot wounds.
The alleged shooter, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, remains at Brooke Army
Medical Center in San Antonio. He is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder in a military court, according to the Associated Press. The hearing was held in Hasan’s hospital room where he is reported
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has called for a 45-day review of the tragedy. The Defense Department said
the investigation is expected to take four to six months.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. John Carter, whose district includes Fort Hood, pushed legislation in Washington that would give combatant status to the casualties.
If the proposal becomes law, families could receive the maximum life insurance available as well as other benefits.
In a statement from his office, Carter said that the legislation is military family focused.
“This bill is not about investigations or assigning blame,” Carter said. “It
is about taking care of our troops and their families first. That’s why we have such strong support from both sides of the aisle, and why we hope and expect this to move quickly.”
National and local leaders attended the memorial service on the front lawn of the 3rd Corps Headquarters building, marking the start of the healing process for families.
President Barack Obama spoke at the service, describing each of the lives of the 12 soldiers and one civilian who were killed. The details about them, such as where they lived, their family life and their hobbies, served to remind those attending of the gravity of the loss of life.
During his speech at the service, Obama said, “Long after they are laid to rest … it will be said that this generation believed under the most trying
of tests; believed in perseverance – not just when it was easy, but when
it was hard; that they paid the price and bore the burden to secure this nation, and stood up for the values that live in the hearts of all free peoples.”
Between 10,000 and 15,000 people attended to honor the fallen soldiers and remember the high price of freedom.
Military spouse and mother Heather Dickinson said as she held one of her two children, “(I) just want them to remember that they were saved that day from anything else happening. It could have gotten a lot worse had somebody not stepped in.”
Dickinson said she hopes the sacrifice of the soldiers killed will bring national pride to her children.
“They truly have heroes and angels watching out for them,” she said.
Military contractor and retired airman Lester Callegari, said the accused
shooter should not be allowed to bring division or mistrust among fellow soldiers.
Callegari said, “This is one person that did this, that this is not an
example overall of who Muslims are, …but I really think that through
(Obama’s) speech, a lot of healing and unity can come out of it.”
In addition to the memorial service, soldiers and their families are also finding help from the surrounding community.
Capt. Justin Bergan, the rear detachment commander for the 115th Brigade Support Battalion, said that soldiers who were present in the readiness center where the shooting took place have undergone four rounds of counseling.
“They see a military life consultant, doctor from Behavioral Health, chaplain, and (also) are broken down into discussion groups,” Bergan said. “If at any point in the process, the soldier is thought to need additional help, they are referred to the resiliency center.”
Director of Protestant Youth Ministry at Fort Hood, Steve Carter, works with students whose parents have faced multiple deployments. He said one-third of his students currently have a parent deployed and another one-third will be before Christmas.
Carter said, “The youth ministry is an integral part of the total religious
support plan for Fort Hood, and as such was involved in mitigating the
effects of the shooting from the beginning.”
First Baptist Church of Killeen held a community memorial service the Sunday after the shootings. The event drew a large crowd, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry spoke.
Perry said at the memorial, “We cannot let outside voices sow dissension among our ranks or cast dispersions to an entire faith and tradition because one adherent committed this monstrosity.”
To assure troops that the nation will not forget their ultimate sacrifice, others spread patriotic messages around the community.
Members of Potter’s House Christian Church in Killeen sought to raise
national pride by passing out “We support our troops” signs around the
neighborhood, as well as providing free bilingual counseling services.
Though none of the congregation was directly affected, Pastor Rene
Torres said their active-duty church members identify with fellow servicemen and women.
Torres said, “We have a lot of active duty soldiers. Being there, they
feel the tragedy of other members of the military.”
Sarah Sattelberg contributed to this article.