When Nidal Hasan gunned down a room full of fellow soldiers — killing 13 and wounding 32 — on Nov. 5, 2009, the local and nationwide community came together offering donations for the victims.
Several organizations took donations — the Red Cross, chaplains’ groups, Army units — but none of them likely drew the amount collected by the Central Texas-Fort Hood Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army.
Within five days of the shooting, AUSA collected $80,000. Three weeks after the shooting, $250,000 had been raised.
The challenge now, said then-president of the chapter, Ron Taylor, is finding a specific way to use those funds.
“We are still working how it will benefit them,” he said. “It is going to be a needs-based type of deal such as lodging, transportation and food.”
By January 2010, AUSA officials told media outlets the fund had grown to $700,000. Two months after that, it was up to $900,000.
In recent years, however, the chapter has grown more hushed on the amount of money in the fund.
John Crutchfield, vice president of the chapter, said during a public event in April that about $1 million was raised.
Last week, however, officials declined to give specifics on how much money is left, but did say the fund has been well spent and well managed for victims and families impacted by the tragedy.
Bill Parry, spokesman for the local AUSA chapter, said last week that all 32 victims who were shot by Hasan received a “stipend” from the fund.
In submitted written questions, the Killeen Daily Herald asked for specific details about the fund, including how much was raised, how much is left, how many people it helped and in what ways.
AUSA declined to release specific amounts.
“There have been documented examples of unscrupulous individuals who were not impacted by the shootings attempting to take advantage of victims of the tragedy,” Parry said in his response to the Herald. “Therefore, to avoid recurrence of those types of actions toward the victims and/or their family members, the chapter leadership has determined it is prudent not to discuss the amount of money remaining in the fund.”
Alonzo Lunsford, shot seven times by Hasan, received money twice from AUSA, he said. Once was soon after the shooting, an emergency expense to get some family to town.
“It was a financial strain. All those soldiers had their back against the wall and I was one of them,” he said.
The second was a $500 stipend he said was given to all witnesses to help them with food and travel for Hasan’s trial.
“They helped me out,” he said. “I don’t have any issues.”
Joleen Cahill, whose husband, Michael Cahill, was killed in the shooting, was visiting family in Montana and Colorado days before Hasan’s trial in August. She was driving in a big storm when she had car trouble.
“(AUSA) actually helped with that a lot because it was not a cheap deal,” Cahill said. “It really helped me, and I did not expect it.”
Cahill said her case was likely approved because of the timing.
“Actually, the expenses had to be 5 November related. I was pushing it to get down to Killeen in time and I just should have stayed off the road, but I didn’t,” she said.
Parry said AUSA’s intent is “to ensure that 100 percent of the funds” go to victims and families directly impacted by the Fort Hood shooting.
And now with the “trial concluded, the chapter leadership is developing a plan for dissolution of the fund and distribution of any remaining funds, which we anticipate will be complete by the end of 2013,” Parry said.
Once all disbursements have been made and the fund is dissolved, a complete audit will be performed specifically as to the fund, he said.