• July 24, 2014

Fort Hood shooting memorial remains ‘sketches on a piece of paper’

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Posted: Tuesday, November 5, 2013 4:30 am

On a parcel of land adjacent to the Killeen Civic and Conference Center sits a sign with “We will remember” splashed across it in bold letters.

The sign has been there since its unveiling in November 2010, marking the site that will someday be the home of the Fort Hood Nov. 5, 2009, Memorial.

In a glass display case inside the conference center rest the photos of the 13 killed in the shooting at Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Processing Center. A brochure lying next to the display case details the memorial.

Connie Kuehl, a memorial committee member and civic center executive director, said the committee hoped to have the memorial completed by now, but with a lull in funding, the idea remains merely sketches on a piece of paper.

Kuehl said the committee has raised about 75 percent of the funds needed to complete the memorial, which is estimated to cost $402,530 to complete. She did not have a number for the amount raised thus far, but about $150,000 is needed to begin erecting the memorial.

The idea for a memorial was conceived by Hiram Dixon, an employee of SPJST, a fraternal society in Temple. In December 2009 while returning from a hunting trip, Dixon started thinking about the shooting and wanted to do something.

“It’s such a tragedy and I thought we needed to do something to honor the people who were killed or wounded,” he said. “Fort Hood is right at our back door, so who better than (SPJST) to spearhead and kind of get things started.”

Dixon, who served in the Army from 1969 to 1972, said soon after the executive staff at SPJST jumped on board a partnership was formed with the city of Killeen, the Killeen Civic and Conference Center special events committee and Killeen Volunteers Inc. to bring the idea to fruition.

The City Council authorized the development and location of the memorial in June 2010, but after two years donations have become stagnant, Kuehl said.

“Donations slowed quite a bit after two years,” she said. “The council recall slowed things down and then time has a way of erasing things from people’s memories or pushing some things to the back of your mind.”

Don Farek, an area home builder, is overseeing the project and said all the plans for the memorial are ready to go, but the committee is waiting until it receives the necessary funding to begin the structure.

Some parts have been completed since the fundraiser began. Salado artist Troy Kelley sculpted the bronze-casted sculptures that will be placed on the black granite pedestals representing each of the 13 killed.

Farek echoed Kuehl, saying the passage of time has curtailed donations.

“Unfortunately, like everything else, as time goes on it’s not as present in people’s minds,” he said. “Usually the anniversary brings it back to the forefront and that could help with donations.”

Kuehl said the committee has received a number of in-kind donations as well as cash.

“We got $26,000 worth of landscaping and site preparation,” she said. “The in-kind donations are just as valuable as cash. Every little bit is helping.”

Dixon said he hopes once complete, the memorial will serve not only as a historical marker but also as a place of healing.

“I hope that it can be a place of healing for the people who lost a loved one and for those wounded,” he said. “I hope that for others it serves as a symbol showing that even if tragedy strikes, the spirit of our people is never deterred.”

To donate to the memorial fund go to www.forthoodmemorial.com.

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