KILLEEN — Eight years ago, a former Army major and psychiatrist went on a shooting rampage at a Fort Hood processing facility where soldiers were preparing for deployment. Twelve active duty soldiers and one civilian were killed.
On Sunday, the memories of those killed were honored by community leaders and family members of the victims of the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting during an afternoon memorial service at the Fort Hood Memorial located in Killeen.
“I’m proud of the community for remembering and coming here today,” Joleen Cahill, widow of civilian victim Michael Cahill, said during the memorial. “The one thing that we always wanted was we ask that this country not forget. And, well, we’re not going to forget.”
The memorial was attended by a few dozen people. Family members of the victims that lived close enough to attend, the Killeen and Copperas Cove mayors, Killeen city councilmembers, members of the committee to construct the memorial and residents of the area circled around the inside perimeter of the memorial pavilion to share remarks.
Jose Segarra, mayor of Killeen, was invited to speak first after an initial prayer.
“It’s a representation of the connection between our communities…that are outside the Great Place and Fort Hood,” Segarra said. Through the memorial, “we also are telling the story of this community.”
Timothy Hancock, former mayor of Killeen and memorial committee co-chair, recounted the night of the shooting when he and his wife were detained in the Howze Theater, just down the street from the site of the shooting, for their safety.
“When it was all over, I began to think about my military career and what I had gone through,” Hancock said. “It’s the first time that anything of this magnitude, on an installation the size of Fort Hood [has happened]. That has stayed with me all this time working on this memorial.”
Some members of the Killeen city council, as well as the sculpture artist for the victim’s pillars within the memorial, Troy Kelley, also shared a few words.
During the remarks, Hancock presented Patricia Alger, craft care specialist with the Help Heal Veterans organization based in Temple, with a special ‘thank-you’ for the donation of a wreath to be used for each year’s memorial service.
Alger and Help Heal Veterans, working closely with Cahill, created a special leather wristband related to Michael Cahill to be included in their free craft kits for veterans, which Cahill helps distribute in her hometown of Cameron.
While many people cited their appreciation for the support of the community, Keely Vanacker, daughter of Michael and Joleen Cahill, also expressed concern about recent acts of violence across the country.
“I really wish personally that the day on Nov. 5, 2009, was a day that we would have learned the results of extremist ideology, and I’m disappointed in our country,” Vanacker said. “That it has only gotten worse, whether it’s extremist ideology from religion, from race, it is a detrimental thing to our country.”
Though no one at the ceremony directly referenced the First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, the shooting, which is now the worst in modern Texas history, did occur just hours before the memorial service.
The ceremony ended with a moment of silence, in which all attendees joined hands in a circle around the center of the memorial, to honor the victims.
The Fort Hood Memorial is located in the 3700 block of South W.S. Young Street in Killeen, in between the Killeen Civic and Conference Center and the Shilo Inn.
It is open to the public.