Keely Vanacker, the daughter of Fort Hood shooting victim Michael Cahill, asked not only for remembrance of victims during a memorial service Sunday afternoon, but that lessons be learned from the tragedy.
“I really wish, personally, that the day of Nov. 5, 2009, was a day that we would have learned the results of extremist ideology,” Vanacker said to the crowd gathered at the Fort Hood Memorial next to the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.
“I’m disappointed in our country, that it has only gotten worse, whether it’s extremist ideology from religion, from race, it is a detrimental thing to our country,” Vanacker said.
The Sutherland Springs Baptist church shooting, in which 26 were killed and about 20 others wounded, occurred just hours before the memorial service in Killeen.
Eight years ago, Nidal Hasan, a former Army major and psychiatrist, opened fire on soldiers preparing to deploy at a Fort Hood facility, resulting in the death of 12 soldiers and one civilian.
Hasan was convicted of the attack in 2013 and was sentenced to death.
Killeen City Council members, the sculpture artist Troy Kelley, as well as mayors from Copperas Cove and Killeen addressed the crowd of a few dozen during the event, citing the community’s ongoing support as the reason for the memorial’s success.
Vanacker was not the only one to comment on recent terrorist attacks.
“This is something that I think has national implications because it serves also as a reminder of ... the battles that we continue to fight in our nation,” said Killeen Mayor Jose Segarra, referring to last week’s terror attack on pedestrians in New York City. “This has the capability to become some sort of national monument.”
The memorial features 13 pillars, topped with statues made to represent the personalities and interests of each victim.
Michael Cahill’s pillar includes a stethoscope to remind others that “he was very dedicated to his patients,” Vanacker said.
“It’s humanizing them, not just what they did, but who they are,” Susan Buckley, of Killeen, said. “It’s just one of those days that you don’t forget. ... We wanted to come pay our respects.”
Joleen Cahill, wife of Michael Cahill, was in attendance with her daughter.
“The one thing that we always wanted was we ask that this country not forget,” Cahill said. “And, well, we’re not going to forget.”
Cahill has been instrumental in getting the families and community members involved in the memorial. She is currently organizing a meeting in July along with the family members of the victims in Wisconsin, where one of the units was from.
The memorial is in between the Killeen Civic and Conference Center and the Shilo Inn on South W.S. Young Drive in Killeen.
It is open to the public.
“I hope that this memorial serves as ... a reminder of the extreme cost when we continue to sit there and believe that we can respond with extremist ideology in the same exact way that they do,” Vanacker said. “We must be better than that, because everyone in this room, every pillar, was a person who was better than that.”