The Killeen community is recognized throughout the armed services for its continued support of Fort Hood and its brave service members.
Over the past 11 years, that community support has been on display constantly as soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan on an almost nonstop basis.
It’s a commitment that has extended to our soldiers’ families as well, especially those who suffered the painful loss of a soldier on the field of battle.
On Nov. 5, 2009, the battlefield was brought into our midst when 12 soldiers and a civilian were killed and 32 others were wounded in a horrific shooting spree at a Fort Hood soldier processing center.
Once the initial shock subsided, the Killeen community responded with an outpouring of help, care and concern for the families impacted by the tragedy.
In the months that followed, plans were unveiled to build a memorial to the 13 people who lost their lives — a project that gained immediate public support.
Artist’s renderings depict an impressive structure. Located adjacent to the Killeen Civic and Conference Center, the memorial features a circular, open-air pavilion and 13 black granite columns, each etched with a victim’s name and likeness and supporting bronze sculptures representing aspects of the victim’s interests and personality. A large flagpole rises from the center of the pavilion, which is surrounded by benches and trees — a suitable site for somber remembrance and quiet reflection.
Yet, more than four years after the plans were unveiled, significant fundraising remains before the project can become a reality. The memorial’s designer, sculptor Troy Kelley of Salado, estimates about $200,000 is needed to complete the project, though in-kind donations have reduced that figure to less than $150,000, one committee member said.
Still, organizers are optimistic, and have launched a renewed marketing effort to bring the memorial to fruition.
Part of that effort is a new website — november5memorial.com — that will help users understand the vision behind the memorial, chart its progress and learn how to get involved in the project. In a video interview, viewers will hear from two former Killeen mayors who are serving as spokesmen for the project.
Organizers are hopeful that ground can be broken sometime next month.
Starting construction on the memorial should provide considerable momentum for the project. Once the memorial starts taking shape, it likely will generate interest in residents who weren’t previously aware of the project, as well as renew the commitment of the memorial’s longtime supporters.
Undoubtedly, one of the problems the memorial committee has faced to this point is visibility.
With only a small memorial display within the conference center, no ongoing construction and no marketing plan, it hasn’t been easy getting the word out.
The new fundraising effort will involve a public information initiative, including speaking engagements by former Mayors Tim Hancock and Fred Latham at civic club meetings and other events.
Hancock is hopeful the memorial can be completed and dedicated on Nov. 5, 2014 — the five-year anniversary of the shooting. It’s an ambitious time line, but one that can be achieved through aggressive fundraising efforts.
Both Hancock and Latham see the memorial as a commitment, not only to the families of the those who lost their lives in the shooting, but also to all the service members who pass through our community during their military service.
The personalized nature of the memorial — with its bronze sculptures representing the uniqueness of each victim’s personality — helps us more fully appreciate those we’ve lost. And as Latham noted, it also emphasizes the one-on-one relationship between the Killeen area and its military families.
By completing the memorial, we can send an important message: Our community not only takes care of its own, it honors its own.
After nearly five years, it’s time to do just that.