• July 24, 2014

Fort Hood Year in Review: Central Texans honor the fallen

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Posted: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 12:00 pm

By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Fort Hood Herald

Editor's Note: To see Fort Hood photos from 2010, go to www.kdhnews.com/multimedia.

Retired Chief Warrant Officer-2 Michael Cahill, Maj. Eduardo Caraveo, Capt. John Gaffaney, Staff Sgt. Amy Krueger, Capt. Russell Seager, Lt. Col. Juanita Warman, Staff Sgt. Justin DeCrow, Pvt. Francheska Velez, Spc. Jason Dean Hunt, Pfc. Aaron Nemelka, Pfc. Michael Pearson, Spc. Frederick Greene and Spc. Kham Xiong were honored at Fort Hood a year after their deaths.

The 13 were killed during the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting at Fort Hood's Soldier Readiness Processing Center.

It was a solemn day a year later as members of the Central Texas community gathered on post to remember the victims and show support to their loved ones and the 32 injured in the shooting.

The day began at Fort Hood's Memorial Park, where the Central Texas-Fort Hood chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army unveiled a granite memorial in honor of the victims. The memorial contains the inscription, "Death leaves a heartache no one can heal. Love leaves a memory no one can steal."

Also during the Memorial Park ceremony, 52 civilians and soldiers were recognized by Maj. Gen. William Grimsley, III Corps and Fort Hood senior commander; Army Secretary John McHugh; and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey for their actions in November 2009.

Capt. John Gaffaney's widow, Christine, accepted the Soldier's Medal on his behalf. According to witness accounts, Gaffaney charged the gunman in an attempt to stop the gunfire, but instead was shot and later died from his wounds.

The Soldier's Medal is awarded to members of the uniformed services who distinguish themselves "by heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy," according to the Army's Institute of Heraldry.

"The performance must have involved personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life under conditions not involving conflict with an armed enemy," read the award's criteria.

Cahill also tried to stop the gunman before he was shot, witnesses in the medical building that day reported. Fort Hood officials said in November that Cahill was a contractor and not eligible for military awards.

A remembrance ceremony took place that afternoon at Cameron Field.

It's taken the better part of a year to get back to functioning, said Philip Warman, husband of Lt. Col. Juanita Warman and a nurse practitioner in the 1908th Medical Detachment.

Nov. 5 was the first time Philip could bring himself to visit Fort Hood from the home he shared with his wife in Maryland. He said the day was very touching. Though the last year was "very difficult," Philip said he was surviving "as my wife would have wanted me to."

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey Jr. reflected on the 2009 memorial ceremony for the victims - which took place five days after the shooting.

"Last year, on a day very much like today, behind a row of 13 Kevlars atop down-turned rifles adorned with ID tags, boots and photos, and under a huge American flag, we struggled as a nation, as an Army and as a community to come to grips with a great tragedy," he said.

Casey talked about visiting two units that lost soldiers - the 20th Engineer Battalion and the 467th Medical Detachment - in Afghanistan.

"For the past year, I've seen how our soldiers and families have been honoring the memories of those we lost that day," he said. "I've seen the pledge to never forget in the actions of their fellow soldiers."

Spc. Alan Carroll, a soldier in the 20th Engineer Battalion, was shot multiple times while trying to evacuate a fellow engineer, Nemelka. Carroll had a chance to get out, but refused to leave his buddy. He and Nemelka were at the center Nov. 5 with two other friends, Greene and Pearson. Carroll was the only one who made it out alive.

The 467th returned in November. The 20th is set to start returning to Fort Hood next week.

Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at astair@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7547. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary or www.facebook.com/astairrett

Run to Remember, Rock the Hood

After a day of healing Nov. 5, Fort Hood officials hosted a series of community events - Run to Remember and Rock the Hood - Nov. 6. Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler, who was severely injured Nov. 5, 2009, led the Run to Remember on a specially designed bicycle. The 13.1-mile route on post included signs honoring the victims at every mile and more than 550 gold stars honoring the Fort Hood soldiers who have fallen in combat since 2003.

Rock the Hood, an afternoon of activities and concerts, included performances by Puddle of Mudd, Elvis Crespo, Flyleaf, Chris Cagle and Nas.

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