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Gold Star Gala honors military personnel

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Posted: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 12:00 pm

By Colleen Flaherty

Fort Hood Herald

The Metroplex Foundation Board was faced with a difficult question last Nov. 5. Would they hold one of their biggest fundraisers of the year in light of the afternoon's shootings at Fort Hood, or would they cancel?

The board decided to carry on with its annual Gold Star Gala, but hospital staff were pulled away to deal with the aftermath and those who did attend did so somberly.

Smiles and laughter at this year's gala Thursday at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center revealed how the community has healed since.

For the first time in the gala's 16-year history, Metroplex reserved several tables for military personnel. Many were affected by the events of Nov. 5, 2009.

They were honored early in the evening and treated to dinner and a performance by country star Joe Nichols.

Among them were Staff Sgt. Patrick Lee Zeigler Jr., who was shot four times, including once in the head, and spent ten months in several different hospitals recovering.

The last year has been hard to describe, his fiancée, Jessica Hansen, said.

Not knowing if Zeigler would survive for so long makes last Nov. 5 seem like yesterday, she said. The community has been overwhelmingly supportive, however, she added.

First responders from the shootings, including Fort Hood civilian police officers Sgt. Kim Munley and Sgt. Mark Todd, who are credited with disarming the alleged shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan, were also guests of Metroplex at Thursday's gala.

The last year has "had its ups and downs," Todd said.

But, he continued, "The community has come together. Everybody tried to pick each other back up."

Todd doesn't consider himself a hero, he said.

Carlyle Walton, Metroplex president and chief executive, had a different opinion.

"We can never repay them for their sacrifice," he said of police and military personnel present on Nov. 5, 2009, and everyday in the community.

Proceeds from the gala, which Walton estimated to be as much as $130,000, will go toward fulfilling the Metroplex Foundation Board's $500,000 pledge toward the new Sue Mayborn Women's Center.

Contact Colleen Flaherty at colleenf@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHfeatures.

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