By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD – Support comes in many forms, whether it's providing food around the clock to soldiers keeping guard, families raising funds or waving a flag to show unity.
The civilian community at and around Fort Hood is stepping up to do what it can for men and women in uniform and their families following Thursday's deadly shooting.
Support from local people, organizations and businesses has been nonstop, said Col. (promotable) John Rossi, and this isn't just because of the shooting.
"This relationship is enduring," he said of the local and Fort Hood communities.
USO: Always there
"This is my home," said Robin Crouse, USO Fort Hood's director.
"These are my kids."
Crouse, her staff and a handful of volunteers are leading efforts near the post's Soldier Readiness Processing Center to make sure investigators and soldiers who are providing security have food, drinks, toiletries and a place to relax in their downtime.
Fort Hood's USO immediately began distributing food donated by local businesses and organizations Thursday night and have worked nonstop to make sure those involved, including the post's command group at III Corps headquarters, had food.
USO is ready to support this command and community in all ways, Crouse said Saturday night.
"I'm feeding my soldiers that I feel are on sacred ground right now," she said.
"We're not gone until they tell us to be gone."
Volunteers for the project were selected carefully. They don't ask soldiers or investigators questions about the case and no cameras are allowed. It's all about making the soldiers feel comfortable and giving them the USO's famous "home away from home."
For more information on how to help USO Fort Hood's efforts, go to www.uso.org/whatwedo/forthood/.
'Praying for you'
"The American soldier is a remarkable person," said former infantryman Mark Rodgers.
"They're standing in the gap for America, so I'm standing in the gap for them."
Rodgers is from Groesbeck, a town of just more than two hours northeast of Fort Hood. He heard about Thursday's shooting and felt compelled to do something. He met Saturday with residents at Soldiers Hospitality House on 3981 Chaparral Road in Killeen. He spelled out a message of support with black electrical tape on a piece of tan siding, bought an American flag and attached it to a broomstick and took a position near Fort Hood's Bernie Beck Main Gate on U.S. 190 Sunday morning.
The honks, waves and shouts of support didn't stop all day.
A lot of soldiers and families stopped and thanked Rodgers. Some of them hugged him and cried. Passers-by brought him sandwiches and drinks. He didn't expect any of it. It was even embarrassing for him.
" ... They're the ones making the sacrifices," he said.
Rodgers got out of the Army in 1988 at Fort Polk and being around those in uniform again had an emotional impact on him, especially following last week's events.
"I love it," he said. "I love soldiers. They're just amazing people."
Rodgers stood beside the busy Central Texas Expressway Sunday afternoon, his American flag blowing in the wind from passing cars.
"(It's the) least I could do to come out and tell them thanks," he said.
An example for their children
"Mine are young and they need to see, need to know," said Army spouse Felicia Stansbury.
She and two other families gathered Sunday at the Willow Springs exit on Central Texas Expressway, gathering donations for families of the soldiers and civilian killed Thursday.
Stansbury and her neighbors, Tara Davis and Sgt. James and Holly Young gathered their nine children this weekend to collect more than $1,200. Davis plans to deliver the money to Fort Hood's command group so it can be distributed to families.
Thirteen-year-old James Young III said he felt bad for the families who lost loved ones.
Davis said the parents wanted their children to learn the concept of what happened and give back. All are military families – Davis' and Stansbury's husbands are deployed to Korea and Iraq, respectively – and all live in the same on-post neighborhood.
Stansbury said if her family experienced a tragedy like last week's, she'd want the same kind of support.
To join the families in their fundraising efforts, contact Davis at email@example.com.
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7547.