52 receive awards honoring actions taken at Fort Hood Nov. 5, 2009

Herald/Steven Doll - Second Lt. Steven Colman, 615th Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, looks at the photos of the 13 people killed in the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting following a remembrance ceremony Friday at Cameron Field.

By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD - Capt. John Gaffaney's widow accepted the Soldier's Medal on his behalf Friday.

Christine Gaffaney was one of 52 individuals who received medals and awards during a ceremony that morning at Fort Hood's Memorial Park.

Army Secretary John McHugh led the post in recognizing soldiers and civilians who acted during and after the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting at the Fort Hood Soldier Readiness Processing Center's medical building that claimed the lives of 13, including John Gaffaney.

Witnesses said Gaffaney charged the alleged gunman in an attempt to stop his rampage, but instead was shot and later died from his wounds.

The Soldier's Medal is awarded to members of the uniformed services who distinguish themselves "by heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy," according to the Army's Institute of Heraldry.

"The performance must have involved personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life under conditions not involving conflict with an armed enemy," read the award's criteria.

The scene at the center last year may have been familiar for anyone who has seen combat, but the men and women honored Friday went "well above and beyond the call of duty," said Maj. Gen. William Grimsley, III Corps and Fort Hood senior commander.

Also during the ceremony, the Fort Hood-Central Texas chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army unveiled a memorial stone in honor of the victims. The stone will remain at the park, which is located by the Old Post Chapel on 761st Tank Battalion Avenue.

Those who gathered at the park did so as an Army family, said Army Secretary John McHugh. It was within that family people could draw comfort and strength, he said, because they would remain stronger as one than they ever could apart.

As loved ones of the 13 fallen watched, individuals who McHugh said thought quick and answered without hesitation or reservation, took the stage and accepted Soldier's Medals, Army Secretary Awards For Valor, Meritorious Service Medals, Meritorious Civilian Service Awards and Superior Civilian Service Awards.

Sgts. Kimberly Munley and Mark Todd Sr., Fort Hood civilian police officers, received standing ovations when they each accepted the Army Secretary Award For Valor.

The two were the first police officers on scene at the processing center Nov. 5, 2009, and are credited with taking down the alleged gunman. Munley was wounded and just recently returned to work at Fort Hood's Directorate of Emergency Service.

Receiving the award was bittersweet, Todd said, because of the circumstances in which it was given. His day-to-day life wasn't changed by the shooting, he said, but 13 families will never be the same.

Meeting with some of the victims' loved ones and attending Friday's ceremony gave Todd some sense of closure, but he will never understand the fundamental question that arose from Nov. 5: Why?

"I'll probably never get that answer," he added.

Todd has received thanks from many people in the last year, but maintains he was just doing his job. Victims' families have thanked him for being there that day, and Todd had simple response Friday when talking about their gratitude: "I wish I could've been there sooner."

For more on this story, including a list of award recipients and what Sgt. 1st Class Maria Guerra and Staff Sgt. Zackary Filip had to say about receiving the Soldier's Medal and Meritorious Service Medal, respectively, read Wednesday's Fort Hood Herald.

Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at astair@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7547. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary or www.facebook.com/astairrett.

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