By Lindsay Starr Platt, Correspondent
On March 11, hundreds of people including Governor Greg Abbott, Congressman John Carter, military and local dignitaries along with community members gathered for the Nov. 5, 2009 Fort Hood Memorial Dedication. Along with the dedication of the memorial was a ceremony for the presentation of Texas Purple Hearts to those who were killed or wounded in the attack on Fort Hood almost seven years ago.
“It is a bittersweet day and brings a little bit more closure,” said Shou Her, widow of Kham Xiong. “I just want to thank everyone that made this possible.”
The 2009 attack was the deadliest mass shooting that has happened on a military installation. The attacker Nidal Hasan killed thirteen people and wounded 31 others on an American installation on which they should have been safe.
“Today just brings closure to what happened and should never happen again,” said Isabel Zunija, family member of victim Eduardo Caraveo.
The memorial was made possible by a committee and the generous support of local sponsors and donors. The memorial is a gazebo that contains 13 sculptures on engraved granite pedestals, each paying tribute to one of the victims killed in the attack. The 13 columns support the gazebo directly behind each individual memorial and have a recessed area for friends and family to place flowers or other mementos. In the center of the memorial is a granite flag pole base engraved with the names of all those wounded and killed on Nov. 5, 2009.
“I think it was well-deserved. And, thank you to all the Central Texas community for their support,” said Timothy Hancock, Fort Hood Memorial Committee Chair. “This was a Central Texas community event. We couldn’t have done it without all the support from the community.”
“A beautiful memorial, they did everything right. I’m glad I came out here two times by myself. Last night, I just wanted to take it all in,” said Dorothy Carskadon, Captain, who was injured in the attack. “I felt very strongly about being here, for those that couldn’t be here.”
“Shows a positive light,” remarked Wanda Gunter, Harker Heights resident.
Family members of the victims released 13 balloons into the sky after the dedication. The ceremony was a chance for those injured and the family members of the victims to reunite and reflect.
“I think they did a fabulous job,” commented Sergeant First Class, Joy Clark, injured in the attack. “It is really great to see family and friends.”
The memorial is located on the grounds of Killeen Civic and Conference Center and is available to visit both day and night. The memorial will be lighted at night providing a comforting glow for visitors.
“Shows the relationship between Fort Hood and Killeen. The soldiers are a part of our community,” said Steve Harris. “A great way to honor our honorary citizens. Even for as long as it took for the government to recognize it was an act of terrorism and not workplace violence.”
Local artist Troy Kelley from Salado made the bronze sculptures using favorite items of the victims to commemorate their lives and what they loved. Private First Class Francheska Velez had a beloved Scooby-Doo plush toy that she used for comfort. Kelley cast a bronze replica of the toy and a smaller one to represent the unborn baby of Valez.
“It has been expressed this is a labor of love for the entire community. By the expression on people’s faces, I see it is a success,” said Troy Kelley, sculptor. “It was long overdue to recognize the troops. The troops make it possible to stay free.”
“I am so glad all this was done in their honor. This is all very gratuitous from the people that donated and the perfect location,” said Jeri Lyn Krueger, mother of victim, Any Krueger.