• December 22, 2014

Families come together to support soldiers

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Posted: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 4:30 am

In the wake of tragedy, families of the units affected by the shooting came together to support one another.

“We have basically, the last couple of weeks, been coordinating meals not only for the families of the fallen, but the families of the injured and the soldiers affected,” said Shawn Bell, spouse of Lt. Col. Myron Bell, commander of the 49th Transportation Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade.

On April 2, a soldier from the battalion shot and killed three soldiers, wounded 16 others, and then turned the gun on himself. Two of those killed were members of the 49th and the third served with 1st Medical Brigade.

With the shooting under investigation, providing food was one of the only ways families could support and help those in need, Bell said.

“It gave us a sense of being able to take care of our families,” she said.

Immediately after the incident, spouses of the family readiness group began contacting Bell, the adviser of the battalion support group, to see what could be done. The care teams met, and since April 3, more than 100 home-cooked meals have been provided.

One volunteer, Christine Sheads, cooked four nights in a row to feed more than 30 people.

While some meals were handed out directly to soldiers, most were delivered and served at Fisher House, a nonprofit that provides families of wounded or ill service members and retirees a place to stay while they receive medical treatment. Fort Hood’s Fisher House is located next to Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center.

After the shooting, all seven rooms at the house were full, said Theresa Johnson, incoming director of the Fort Hood location of the nonprofit.

For the families with soldiers receiving care at Scott and White in Temple, the Fisher House utilized its Hotels for Heroes program to provide lodging.

Typically families provide their own meals at the house, unless volunteers step up. This help is very appreciated, Johnson said.

“It’s always great because the whole purpose of being here is to be able to focus on their loved one getting medical care,” she said. “To come home after a long day at hospital and know a meal is prepared is pretty important. Most of the time caregivers ... tend to forget about themselves.”

Support came not just from spouses of the 49th, but also from 1st Medical Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command and the USO.

“I think (the families) really did get that sense of feeling we are really there to help all of us,” Bell said. “We’re here to support the Army family.”

Some off-post organizations also helped out, she added.

“Central Texas has reached out their hands and said what can we do to help you,” Bell said. “If there is something we’ve needed, we’ve not had to ask, they’ve donated.”

Fund set up

For those interested in providing monetary support for the long-term care of those impacted by the shooting, Fort Hood officials are asking donations be made to the National Compassion Fund. Managed by the National Center for Victims of Crime, the fund was developed in conjunction with 70 victims and families recent U.S. mass-casualty crimes. The fund distributes money donated as cash payments to the victims, and they themselves decide how best to use the money to recover and rebuild their lives.

“We know of no other fund set up especially for mass crime victims where the public knows that every dollar they donate is going directly to those victims,” said Mai Fernandez, executive director of the center, headquartered in Washington, D.C. “These victims will struggle to recover physically and mentally, in the months and years ahead. This fund ensures that money generously donated by the public will go directly to them.”

Money donated for Fort Hood victims will be distributed to them, said Jeffrey R. Dion, deputy executive director the center and director of the National Crime Victim Bar Association.

“There are no common pools of donations across criminal events,” he said. “While we have the technical ability to manage appeals for multiple events, Fort Hood is the only appeal we have open.”

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