Old wounds reopened for Kelli Heinz as the somber sounds of a trumpet echoed through the air.

Memories of burying her 25-year-old husband in July were fresh on her mind as she listened to roll call and taps for three soldiers who died in the April 2 shooting at Fort Hood.

While the families of those soldiers sobbed during an outdoor memorial at Fort Hood, Heinz wiped tears from her cheeks as she watched it on TV at the Carolina Ale House in Killeen.

“I lost it. I lost it. It was the hardest thing because it reminds me like it was yesterday that I buried my husband,” said Heinz, 26. “Seeing the wives, I know exactly what they’re feeling and, unfortunately, there’s nothing anyone can say or do to change anything because their husband is gone.”

Although her husband, Spc. Christopher Kent Heinz, drowned July 14 at Stillhouse Hollow Lake and died under different circumstances from those killed last week, Kelli Heinz said she shares something with the soldiers’ widows and family members — their loved ones died unexpectedly, and too soon.

“It’s terrible. Finding out with a knock on a door (that) your husband is dead is the worst feeling in the world,” Heinz said. “I know completely what these families are going through, without a doubt.”

Heinz said she was glad President Barack Obama attended the memorial to show his support for the community.

“What happened was a huge tragedy, but for him to actually come down here to Fort Hood, that’s huge,” she said. “Everyone can have their opinions about him, but that’s all politics. At the end of the day, he’s a human being. He has a wife and kids and he’s our commander in chief, so he’s here for the (community) and that means so much.”

Retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Patricial Prosise, who also watched Wednesday’s memorial at the Ale House, was part of a team that immediately supported families of soldiers who died in the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting at Fort Hood.

Prosise, who was a casualty assistance officer at Fort Hood when she retired in 2007, said she stayed with families from the time they learned their soldiers died until their funerals.

“It’s rewarding, but it was very hard, very stressful,” she said. “It just tears a family up.”

Prosise said she has listened to final roll call and taps too many times — each soldier’s funeral just as emotional as the last.

“It goes to the heart,” she said.

Although it’s a “sad, somber thing,” she said the community and Obama are pulling together, just like they did nearly five years ago.

“As our commander in chief ... it’s really core to ensure the soldiers’ families that he’s here, he’s aware,” she said. “That is the respectful thing for him to do.”

In the nine months since her husband died, Heinz said the Army has not forgotten her.

“I’ll still have bad days where I just cannot get my husband off my mind and I just hurt so bad and I want to be alone, but yet I don’t,” she said. “(Christopher’s) lieutenant colonel still contacts me every now and then to check up on me and see how I’m doing. ... I’m just a wife. I wasn’t a part of that, my husband was. But for them to still make sure I’m OK, that means the world.”

Heinz decided to make Killeen her new home so she could be surrounded by military support.

“I love being around here, around Fort Hood and soldiers,” she said.

“The Army does come together when something happens and they’ve all been here for me like crazy. It’s so comforting to be here. I’ve grown so much from it. As time goes on, I want to be here for other widows and help them like they’ve helped me.”

Contact Sarah Rafique at srafique@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7553. Follow her on Twitter at SarahRafique.

I'm the education reporter at the Killeen Daily Herald. Follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SarahRafique

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