By Dave Larsen
III Corps and Fort Hood public affairs
Approximately 500 people, including soldiers, family members, community leaders and friends, filled the Spirit of Fort Hood Chapel to not only mourn the passing of Brig. Gen. Terence J. Hildner, the former commanding general of the 13th Sustainment Command, but also to celebrate his life at a memorial ceremony Saturday, which was closed to the media.
Three speakers paid tribute to Hildner, who died Feb. 3 in Kabul, Afghanistan, of apparent natural causes: III Corps and Fort Hood Commanding General Lt. Gen. Don Campbell Jr.; 13th Sustainment (rear) Commander Col. Knowles Y. Atchison; and the 13th Sustainment's senior noncommissioned officer and the other half of Hildner's command team in Afghanistan, Command Sgt. Maj. Terry E. Parham.
In his remarks, Campbell recalled Hildner as "a tremendous and compassionate leader" whose legacy lives on with his soldiers in Afghanistan, his family and friends in Central Texas and throughout the Army because of his service.
"He was the best general officer I have ever seen when it came to understanding the meaning of teamwork," Campbell said.
Campbell told Hildner's parents, Robert and Susan, they should "know that your son truly was an officer and a gentleman."
To the general's wife and his children, Campbell spoke of the strength of the Army – its families – telling the Hildner Family they will always be a part of the Army Family, especially at Fort Hood.
"Thank you, Cindy, for all you have done and continue to do for our Army Family," he said.
During his tribute, Atchison drew a few chuckles in the audience.
"I have had the privilege to have spent countless hours over the last few years engaged in intellectual combat with Brig. Gen. Hildner," Atchison said in his opening remarks. These discussions would go on and on, but would always end with the same words.
"He would say, 'At the end of the day, it's about relationships,'" Atchison recalled.
"He was my general, and he was my friend, and we built those relationships," he said.
Atchison's voice cracked and quivered as he noted a shared faith with Hildner.
"Brig. Gen. Hildner was a professional soldier in the United States Army, but he was also in the Lord's Army," Atchison said, "and sometimes, your higher headquarters has other plans for you other than the one's you've made yourself. The Lord must have needed a master logistician, so he came to the greatest Army in the world and He took the best."
Parham joined Hildner at the 13th Sustainment Command in September. They deployed together in December. Less than two months later, Parham was speaking at his memorial.
"He was a demanding leader, but respected everyone," Parham said. "It's been an honor to serve beside a great leader."
Following the three tributes, Col. Archie P. Davis III read "The Soldier's Psalm," Psalm 91. Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Stephen W. Austin followed with a memorial meditation. Before the benediction was given, however, a bagpipe rendition of "Amazing Grace" was played by retired Maj. Bill Herridge.
As the final notes of Herridge's tribute faded away, Command Sgt. Maj. Guitaud Leandre called out the final roll call for the general, followed by the firing of volleys by a 13th Sustainment firing detail. A lone bugler played taps to conclude the ceremony.
Hildner is survived by his wife, Cindy; his parents, Robert and Susan Hildner; his sister, Elizabeth; his brother, Steven; two sons, Jonathan and Ryan; two daughters, Brittany and Julie; and grandson, Cameron.
The general will be laid to rest Feb. 29 at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.