What started as sketches on a napkin began to come to fruition Tuesday morning as a committee developed to erect a memorial honoring the victims of the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting at Fort Hood broke ground on the structure.
Joleen Cahill, widow of retired Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael Cahill — the only civilian killed in the shooting — said the tragedy is one the nation “must remember.”
“The sacrifices made that day, the lives lost and saved, the valor by so many … this will be remembered in this memorial,” she said. “They will not be forgotten, for all gave some and some gave all.”
The idea for the memorial was conceived by Hiram Dixon, an employee of SPJST, a fraternal society in Temple. Dixon was on a hunting trip in South Dakota when the shooting occurred.
“I came home with such a heavy heart, I could not fathom such a thing happening,” he said. “I was sitting having lunch in Temple and began doodling … I sat and doodled a little gazebo
with a garden. … We said, ‘Somebody needs to do something.’ I really appreciate all that has come from a little bitty idea of a drawing on a napkin.”
Nearly four years after an unveiling of the idea for the memorial in November 2010, the committee put its stake in the ground to begin making the memorial, adjacent to the Killeen Civic and Conference Center, a reality.
Dixon said breaking ground on the structure and moving forward is possible because of the efforts made by many.
Years of fundraising
“To stand here today is a culmination of a lot of hard work from many, many people. It’s a culmination of a tremendous amount of contributions that came from the smallest of companies to the largest of corporations,” Dixon said. “It’s a culmination of the little girl (who) gave me 83 cents at a fundraiser, to people who have donated thousands and thousands of dollars.”
After four years of fundraising efforts, the ceremony, while somber, held a sense of accomplishment.
“It’s a good day that we are all here to honor and remember what happened … It’s a sad day that we have to be here at all,” Dixon said.
‘A labor of love’
The structure will honor the 13 killed and 32 wounded on Nov. 5, 2009, when former Army Maj. Nidal Hasan opened fire in Building 42003 — a medical facility used as part of the Soldier Readiness Processing Center.
Sculptures of objects symbolizing each of the individuals killed in the attack will sit atop granite columns around the perimeter of the open-air pavilion.
An American flag rises from a granite pyramid soaring into the sky. On each side of the pyramid the names of the 32 wounded and 13 killed are inscribed with the history of the day on one side.
“It’s been a labor of love … this was truly a labor of love,” said Troy Kelley, the artist and sculptor behind the memorial.
Sgt. Mark Todd, one of the Fort Hood civilian police officers who fired shots wounding Hasan and ending the rampage, attended the ceremony along with local and state dignitaries, including Killeen Mayor Scott Cosper, and former Mayors Dan Corbin, Fred Latham and Tim Hancock.
Maj. Gen. Kendall Cox, III Corps deputy commander, and representatives from Sen. John Cornyn’s, Sen. Ted Cruz’s and U.S. Rep. John Carter’s offices also attended the ceremony.
Sense of peace
Cahill said some wounds from that day will never heal, but the memorial will help bring a sense of peace.
“There are hundreds still healing from the wounds of that day, wounds which are physical and wounds that are invisible,” she said. “The invisible wounds never heal, and they open up sometimes rearing their ugly heads. The memorial will help bring peace and a closure to many.”
To learn more about the memorial or to donate, go to www.November5Memorial.com.