Hundreds attend dedication of memorial to Fort Hood victims

(Fort Hood Memorial committee/file)
(Fort Hood Memorial committee/file)(KWTX)
Published: Mar. 11, 2016 at 10:03 AM CST
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Hundreds attended a dedication ceremony Friday afternoon in Killeen for a memorial to the 13 victims of the Nov. 5, 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood.

Joleen Cahill's husband, Mike Cahill, was one of the thirteen victims.

He was a physician's assistant who helped treat soldiers returning from tours of duty or preparing for deployment.

Witnesses said he charged the shooter with a chair but was shot before he could take him done.

Joleen said her husband would always do what he believed was right.

"One thing he said was one person can make a difference, one thing can make a difference. Do what is right, that is morally right and not what goes along with everything else. That is what he stood for and he got in a lot of trouble because he stood up for what was right," she said.

Governor Greg Abbott presented Texas Purple Hearts to each of the victim's families and those who were injured in the terror attack.

"We remember a horrific tragedy on Fort Hood but also we remember the bravery, the honor of those who have served and we are pleased to present Texas Purple Hearts to those who were in the service who either lost their lives -- present it to their family members or those who were injured that we get to present to them directly," Abbott said.

"The core message is one of thanks for those who put their lives on the lines to make America the strongest, freest country in the world."

Local sculptor Troy Kelley spent six years creating the memorial that will serve as a reminder of how much was lost on that terrible day but at the same time a symbol of the good people who are no longer with us.

He designed individualized, bronze sculptors for the 13 victims.

"It's a really wonderful, wonderful day and it's finally come to fruition. What we have struggled for six years and I know it means so much to the community and Fort Hood," he said.

The Fort Hood November 5 Memorial is located near the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.

In April 2015, Purple Heart medals or Defense of Freedom medals were presented to many of the victims or the families of victims.

The Defense of Freedom medal is awarded to civilian employees of the U.S. Defense Department who are killed or wounded in the line of duty.

In February 2015, Secretary of the Army John McHugh approved the decorations and directed Army officials to identify the soldiers and civilians eligible for honors after Congress approved and the president signed a measure changing the eligibility criteria for the medals.

Fort Hood's Dead

Mike Cahill, Cameron

Mike Cahill, 62, of Cameron was among the 13 people killed in a shooting rampage Thursday at the Soldier Readiness Center at Fort Hood. , Cahill, a civilian physician's assistant, helped treat soldiers returning from tours of duty or preparing for deployment. Often, his daughter Keely Vanacker said, Cahill would walk young soldiers where they needed to go, just to make sure they got the right treatment. "He loved his patients, and his patients loved him," said Vanacker, 33, the oldest of Cahill's three adult children. "He just felt his job was important." Cahill, who was born in Spokane, Wash., had worked as a civilian contractor at Fort Hood for about four years, after jobs in rural health clinics and at Veterans Affairs hospitals. He and his wife, Joleen, had been married 37 years. Vanacker described her father as a gregarious man and a voracious reader who could talk for hours about any subject. The family's typical Thanksgiving dinners ended with board games and long conversations over the table, said Vanacker, whose voice often cracked with emotion as she remembered her father. "Now, who I am going to talk to?"

Major L. Eduardo Caraveo, Virginia

Major L. Eduardo Caraveo, 52, arrived in the United States in his teens from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, knowing very little English said his son, who's also named Eduardo Caraveo. He earned his doctorate in psychology from the University of Arizona and worked with bilingual special-needs students at Tucson-area schools before entering private practice. His son told the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson that Caraveo arrived at Fort Hood on Wednesday and was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. Eduardo Caraveo spoke to the newspaper from his mother's Tucson home. His father's Web site says he offered marriage seminars with a company based in Woodbridge, Va. He was assigned to the 467th Medical Detachment, Madison, Wis.

Staff Sgt. Justin M. DeCrow, Georgia

Staff Sgt. Justin M. DeCrow, 32, was helping train soldiers on how to help new veterans with paperwork and had felt safe on the Army post. "He was on a base," his wife, Marikay DeCrow, said in a telephone interview from the couple's home at Fort Gordon, Ga., where she hoped to be reunited with her husband once he finished his work at Fort Hood. "They should be safe there. They should be safe." His wife said she wanted everyone to know what a loving man he was. The DeCrows have a 13-year-old daughter, Kylah. "He was well loved by everyone," she said through sobs. "He was a loving father and husband and he will be missed by all." DeCrow's father, Daniel DeCrow, of Fulton, Ind., said his son graduated high school in Plymouth, Ind., and married his high school sweetheart that summer before joining the Army. The couple moved near Fort Gordon about five years ago, he said. About a year ago, his son was stationed in Korea for a year. When he returned to the U.S., the Army moved him to Fort Hood while he waited for a position to open up in Fort Gordon so he could move back with his wife and daughter, Daniel DeCrow said. DeCrow said he talked to his son last week to ask him how things were going at Fort Hood. "As usual, the last words out of my mouth to him were that I was proud of him," he said. "That's what I said to him every time - that I loved him and I was proud of what he was doing. I can carry that around in my heart." He was assigned to the 16th Signal Company, Fort Hood.

Capt. John Gaffaney, California

Capt. John Gaffaney, 56, was a psychiatric nurse who worked for San Diego County, Calif., for more than 20 years and had arrived at Fort Hood the day before the shooting to prepare for a deployment to Iraq. Gaffaney, who was born in Williston, N.D., had served in the Navy and later the California National Guard as a younger man, his family said. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he tried to sign up again for military service. Although the Army Reserves at first declined, he got the call about two years ago asking him to rejoin, said his close friend and co-worker Stephanie Powell. "He wanted to help the boys in Iraq and Afghanistan deal with the trauma of what they were seeing," Powell said. "He was an honorable man. He just wanted to serve in any way he can." His family described him as an avid baseball card collector and fan of the San Diego Padres who liked to read military novels and ride his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Gaffaney supervised a team of six social workers, including Powell, at the county's Adult Protective Services department. Ellen Schmeding, assistant deputy director for the county's Health and Human Services Agency, said Gaffaney was a strong leader. He is survived by a wife and a son. He was assigned to the 1908th Medical Company, Independence, Mo.

Spc. Frederick Greene, Tennessee

Spc. Frederick Greene, 29, of Mountain City, Tenn., was assigned to the 16th Signal Company, Fort Hood, Texas. He went by the nickname "Freddie" and was active at Baker's Gap Baptist Church while he was growing up, said Glenn Arney, the church's former superintendent and a former co-worker of Greene's.

Spc. Jason Dean Hunt, Oklahoma

Spc. Jason Dean Hunt, 22, was among the 13 people killed Thursday at Fort Hood, family members in Oklahoma said. Gale Hunt of Frederick said Friday two uniformed soldiers came to her door at 11:30 p.m. Thursday to notify her of the death of her son. She said her son joined the military after graduation from Tipton High School, and had served three and a-half years, including a stint in Iraq. He was married two months ago. He was previously stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia. She described him as family-oriented and quiet and said he enjoyed video games. He was assigned to the 1st Brigade,
Fort Hood.

Sgt. Amy Krueger, Wisconsin

Sgt. Amy Krueger, 29, of Kiel, Wis., joined the Army after the 2001 terrorist attacks and had vowed to take on Osama bin Laden. Her mother, Jeri Krueger, says Amy Krueger had arrived at Fort Hood on Tuesday. She told the Herald Times Reporter of Manitowoc, Wis., that her daughter was scheduled to be sent to Afghanistan in December. Jeri Krueger recalls telling her daughter that she could not take on bin Laden by herself. The mother recalls her daughter's response: "Watch me." Kiel High School Principal Dario Talerico told The Associated Press that Krueger graduated from the school in 1998 and had spoken at least once to local elementary school students about her career. Talerico says he remembers Amy Krueger as "a very good kid, who like most kids in a small town are just looking for what their next step in life was going to be and she chose the military. Once she got into the military, she really connected with that kind of lifestyle and was really proud to serve her country." She was assigned to the 467th Medical Company, Madison, Wis.

Pfc. Aaron Thomas Nemelka, Utah

Pfc. Aaron Thomas Nemelka, 19, who was from the Salt Lake City suburb of West Jordan, Utah, chose to join the Army instead of going on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to his uncle, Christopher Nemelka, who says, , "As a person, Aaron was as soft and kind and as gentle as they come, a sweetheart." He says that what he "loved about the kid was his independence of thought." Aaron Nemelka was the youngest of four children. His family says he was scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan in January. Utah National Guard Lt. Col. Lisa Olsen says Nemelka had enlisted in the Army in October 2008. He was assigned to the 510th
Engineer Company, 20th Engineer Battalion, Fort Hood.

Pfc. Michael Pearson, Illinois

Pfc. Michael Pearson, 21, of Bolingbrook, Ill., was one of the 13 people killed in the shooting rampage. Sheryll Pearson told the Chicago Tribune that she and her husband found out Thursday that their son was killed in the attack. She said her son joined the Army more than a year ago and was training to deactivate bombs. She said she and her husband received a call from their son's sergeant at Fort Hood. He told them their son had been shot three times, and an Army surgeon later called to say he had died. Sheryll Pearson says the loss has left the family "all very angry." Neighbor Jessica Koerber says the family has "lost their gem." She said Michael loved playing with his nieces and nephews and enjoyed playing guitar. She calls him "a great kid." He was assigned to the 510th Engineer Company, 20th Engineer Battalion, Fort Hood.

Capt. Russell Seager, Wisconsin

Capt. Russell Seager, 51, of Racine, Wis., was assigned to the 467th Medical Company, Madison, Wis. Seager was a psychiatrist who joined the Army because he wanted to help veterans returning to civilian life. His brother-in-law, Dennis Prudhomme, said he worked with soldiers at the Veterans Affairs hospital. Seager was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan in December.

Pvt. Francheska Velez, Illinois

Relatives say 21-year-old Francheska Velez of Chicago is among the 13 people killed when an Army psychiatrist opened fire. Her father, Juan Guillermo Velez, said she only recently returned from deployment in Iraq. She was preparing to come home because she was pregnant. He likens her death on U.S. soil after serving her country to a slap in the face. He clutched pictures of his daughter as he spoke on a family porch. A friend of Velez, Sasha Ramos, describes her as a fun-loving person who wrote poetry and loved dancing. She was assigned to the 15th Combat Support Battalion, Fort Hood.

Lt. Col. Juanita Warman, Maryland

Lt. Col. Juanita Warman, 55, of Havre De Grace, Md., was a military physician assistant with two daughters and six grandchildren. Her sister, Margaret Yaggie of Roaring Branch in north-central Pennsylvania, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that her sister attended Pittsburgh Langley High School and put herself through school at the University of Pittsburgh. She said her sister spent most of her career in the military. She was assigned to the 1908th Medical Company, Independence, Mo.

Spc. Kham Xiong, Minnesota

A St. Paul, Minnesota soldier is among those who were killed in the Fort Hood massacre. Army Spc. Kham Xiong was shot and killed before he ever had a chance to go to war. He was at Fort Hood, preparing for a deployment in Iraq around New Year's. Xiong's wife and three children had been with him in Texas for five months, as he got ready for his assignment. The rest of his family is in St. Paul where Xiongs' father, Chor, says he will always be proud of his son. Family members say Xiong was in line for a physical when the shooting broke out. His wife sent him a text message, telling him to come home for lunch and go back for the physical later. But Xiong texted back, "No, I'll stay. It's almost my turn." Xiong has ten siblings, including a 17-year-old brother, who's a Marine in Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 510th Engineer Company, 20th Engineer Battalion, Fort Hood.