Mourners Across US Grieve For Fort Hood Slain
A California National Guard Honor Guard carries the casket of Fort Hood victim Captain John Paul Gaffaney at a memorial service at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery Saturday in San Diego. (Associated Press / November 14, 2009)
Across the country, many stood before several flag-draped coffins during funeral services for several of the 13 victims of the Nov. 5 shootings in Fort Hood, Texas.
In Plymouth, Ind. Sheila Ellabarger had placed two foot-high American flags in the grass where she watched the procession for Army Staff Sgt. Justin DeCrow. She said her children went to school with DeCrow and his wife - his high school sweetheart - and she knew other members of his family.
"He was killed by a terrorist in my mind but he was still killed in the line of duty. We owe him a debt of gratitude, him and his family and the other soldiers. We owe them our lives, our freedom," Ellabarger said.
During services in Norman, Okla., snapshots from U.S. Army Spc. Jason Dean Hunt's recent wedding were projected near his casket. The 22-year-old was described as a loving husband and family man as well as a soldier who left a legacy of selflessness and service.
"We may never find out the reason for what occurred on that fateful day at Fort Hood, Texas," said Ross Ridge, the deputy commanding general at Fort Sill, Okla. "The military community are all grieving here today over the loss of this dedicated soldier."
The high school gymnasium in Kiel, Wis. was filled Saturday for Staff Sgt. Amy Krueger's funeral. A visitation had been held there Friday where the 29-year-old was remembered as a determined, energetic young woman.
She joined the U.S. Army Reserves after the 2001 terrorist attacks and vowed to hunt down bin Laden. When her mother said she couldn't do it alone, the soldier defiantly told her, "Watch me."
Krueger was to deploy to Afghanistan for a second time in December and had recently been sent for training at Fort Hood, where authorities allege Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire at a processing center.
Krueger had been studying psychology at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and was a mental health specialist who wanted to help soldiers cope with combat stress.
"Her smile would light up any room, her energy would envelope all of those around her," her parents, Jeri Krueger and David Diem, said in a statement. "It is that smile and that energy that keeps us going throughout this difficult time."
She was what they call "Army Proud." Krueger always wore a U.S. Army hat or shirt around town and sported a tattoo that had a tattered American flag and read: "All gave some. Some gave all. Sacrifice."
In Utah, among those crowded into a Mormon chapel were Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah and U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Lt. Col. Lisa Olsen, Utah National Guard spokesman.
They joined the family and friends of Pfc. Aaron Thomas Nemelka for the funeral honoring the 19-year-old.
Nemelka, of West Jordan, Utah, joined the Army a little more than a year ago and was preparing to deploy to Iraq. He was trained to defuse bombs and relatives say he was planning to ask his girlfriend to marry him in December during a visit home.
Other funerals on Saturday were for Capt. John Gaffaney, 56, a psychiatric nurse who worked for San Diego County, Calif. and Pfc. Michael Pearson, 22, of Bolingbrook, Ill.
Pearson was remembered as a quiet observer and naturally talented musician who liked to share his love of the guitar.
During his service, a lone electric guitarist played a mournful rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."