AUSTIN — A survivor of the Nov. 5, 2009, Fort Hood shooting completed a nearly 80-mile run Monday to mark the third anniversary of the tragic event and raise awareness and funds for an organization that helps soldiers and families who are still impacted by the attack.
Christopher Royal, a chief warrant officer assigned to III Corps, finished his five-day run from Fort Hood to Austin on the steps of the Texas Capitol just before noon. A handful of people, including family members of a soldier who died during the shooting, were there to greet him.
“I’m happy,” said Royal, who has been in the Army 16 years and was preparing to deploy to Iraq at the time of the shooting. “This has definitely been an eye-opener to a lot of people.”
The run was a way to raise funds and awareness for 32 Still Standing Foundation, an organization Royal founded a year after the shooting to help soldiers who were victims of the shooting.
It was one of two notable Fort Hood shooting remembrance ceremonies marking the third anniversary of the rampage that left 13 people dead and wounded 32 others.
Authorities say accused gunman Maj. Nidal Hasan fired dozens of rounds inside and outside the Soldier Readiness Processing Center that was filled with soldiers getting ready to deploy. It was worldwide news the day it happened, and brought President Barack Obama to Fort Hood a few days later for a memorial ceremony.
Royal began the run Thursday on Fort Hood, and ran it in segments through Florence, Georgetown and Round Rock.
“I am elated and glad that he is finished,” said Royal’s wife, Stephanie Royal.
An Army major, Stephanie Royal was on post the day of the shooting. She found out through a text message that her husband had been shot. She saw him not long after in the emergency room.
She said it is important for the public to remember — especially on a day like Nov. 5 — that soldiers are constantly faced with hardships of war, deployment and, in many cases, post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I think it’s important that Americans remember that soldiers sacrifice daily,” Stephanie Royal said. “There is a mind war we never see.”
Adam Marlatt and David Wharton, two staff sergeants who work with Christopher Royal at III Corps, both ventured to Austin Monday morning and ran in their battle dress uniforms with him during the last mile. “We just came down here to give our support,” said Marlatt.
Alfred Cateon, 28, a former Fort Hood police officer who responded to the shooting, ran with Christopher Royal for a 15-mile stretch from Georgetown through Round Rock on Saturday.
Cateon said he just found out about the run a few days ago. And when he learned Christopher Royal was doing the run alone, “I said I can’t have that,” said Cateon.
Among the small crowd that greeted the chief warrant officer beneath the shade of the state Capitol was the family of Michael Cahill, who was killed in the shooting. Cahill, 62, was an Army retiree who was working at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center at the time.
“I read the article in the newspaper, and I said that we need to support him,” said Cahill’s wife, Joleen Cahill, who drove about 80 miles from her home in Cameron to watch Royal finish the run.
She said there were many people hurt by the shooting, not just physically, but also emotionally. While healing is an ongoing process in the lives of many involved in the shooting, Joleen Cahill said being at the Capitol with others who understand has helped. “It has been healing for me to be here with this group,” she said.
32 Still Standing
The mission of the 32 Still Standing Foundation is to help soldiers and their families injured in the shooting with needed finances or other support. Royal has said he wants to expand the organization to help soldiers in need nationwide, whether they were involved in the shooting or not.
While donations have been short, Royal said the run made more people aware of the organization and brought in a few volunteers who will make it better.
“I believe that every mile was worth it,” he said.
Contact Jacob Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7468