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Mourners gather for Ft. Hood Memorial Service

Nov. 10, 2009

Chief of staff of the Army George Casey spoke for many when calling Thursday's shooting a "kick in the gut" to the close-knit military community. If the focus of the last few days was on the shock of a base shooting and scrutiny on the alleged shooter, Major Nidal Hassan, the attention yesterday was completely on 13 men and women who gave their lives while going about their duties. They were the focus of President Obama's address to the crowd of 15,000 plus outside the 3 Corps headquarters.

And the work indeed goes on at Fort Hood, where thousands of soldiers are preparing for deployment. But while the routine continues, it's not work going on as normal. A sense of security has been shattered, as soldiers who are no strangers to the spectra of death and tragedy come to grips that this one happened within the gates of their home base. Sgt. John Simmons:

For some, like Specialist Brian Hill, these incomprehensible actions gave birth to anger.

Others, like Sgt. Zelene Charles came to the memorial still palpably bearing Thursday's sadness, amplified by the thought of family members whose loved ones were killed in what they believed to be a safe place.

It was against this backdrop of emotions that President Barack Obama delivered his speech personalizing the 13 individuals who lost their lives, talking of their backgrounds, their hobbies, and their service. In a 15 minute address, the president focused on the sacrifice of these soldiers and their battle buddies in the war on terror, also reminding the living that their actions more than live up to the lofty standards of soldiers in prior battles.

Following the president, the memorial featured the ceremonial staples for which the military is known, closing with a roll call and honoring the dead with a 21 gun salute and taps.

As he heard the guns and bugle, and saw the traditional boot-rifle-helmet memorial, one soldier sat with his wife and son filled with a mixture of grief and gratitude. Chief Christopher Royal was one of the injured in the attack.

Despite sustaining the injuries, Chief Royal and others in the immediate seconds following the tragedy lived out what Army Chief of Staff George Casey was the warrior ethos:

That's as far as Chief Royal wished to look back, not wishing to re-live Thursday for the time being. Instead, he looked ahead.

And with the memorial ceremony concluded, Ft. Hood looks ahead as well--to deployments, to training, and to go about fulfilling the responsibilities that come with being the largest installation in the United States military. And while the media focuses on the killer and his background, post-traumatic stress-disorder, and the debate over two battles abroad, the soldiers will remember the legacy left behind by 13 Americans whose legacy was spelled out by the president.

A photo gallery from the memorial service is online at kwbu.org. For KWBU news, I'm Derek Smith.



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