By Colleen Flaherty
Fort Hood Herald
Brig. Gen. Terence Hildner, who died of apparent natural causes in Afghanistan earlier this month, was honored with "a traditional" cannon salute at noon Thursday at Fort Hood.
Hildner's family and friends joined Fort Hood leaders at the base of the III Corps flagpole as soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Fires Brigade, fired 11 rounds at one-minute intervals.
"It just gives the opportunity for the family to gather with the people that knew him," said III Corps and Fort Hood historian Richard Powell, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who attended the private event. "It's done right after the official (death) announcement and it's just a way of helping them begin the healing process."
Although now included in formal Army regulations, the custom dates back to at least the 1600s, in the British navy.
"(When) a cannon was fired, it partially disarmed the ship," said Powell. "So firing the cannon symbolizes respect and trust. It's like other forms of salutes, like the hand salute, again, meant to show that you're unarmed, or empty, or that you mean no harm. You're putting yourself under the power of the individual being honored."
Although salutes are offered at all military funerals, as a general officer, Hildner was first saluted at III Corps headquarters. Such a display is rare at military installations; Hildner, commander of the 13th Sustainment Command, was the highest-ranking U.S. soldier to die in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to the Defense Department.
As a brigadier general, Powell said, Hildner was afforded 11 rounds.
The 49-year-old Connecticut native listed his home of record as Fairfax, Va. Hildner is survived by his wife, Cindy, and four children: Brittany, Julie, Jonathan and Ryan.
Commander of the 13th Sustainment since 2010, Hildner deployed to Afghanistan with the unit in December as the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan deputy commander for Support Operations. He died Feb. 3 in Kabul.
A memorial service for the general will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Spirit of Fort Hood Warrior and Family Chapel.
The funeral is scheduled for 8:45 a.m. Feb. 29 at the Memorial Chapel at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.
Contact Colleen Flaherty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHFortHood.