Family of Fort Hood shooting victims grieve together - KXXV Central Texas News Now


Family of Fort Hood shooting victims grieve together

by Matt Johnson

FORT HOOD - Families and friends of the 13 men and women who lost their lives in the Fort Hood shooting used Friday's ceremony to remember together.

Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler came to honor the fallen, as well as the man who helped save his life on Nov. 5, 2009.

"I think about him all the time, and everyone we lost a year ago," said Zeigler.

Cpt. John Gaffaney was fatally shot after helping Zeigler at the SRC building and trying to stop the shooter.  Zeigler survived after suffering four gunshot wounds and was left paralyzed.

For the families of the 13 men and women who died last year - Friday was about remembering lives cut too short.

Sheila Hunt-Willingham still remembers the day she found out her brother Jason was killed.

"It was the worst moment of my life," she said.

The day helped bring together grieving families going through the same mourning process.

"We've had a year to get to know each other and realize that we are bound by this tragedy and we've become a close knit family that support each other," said Hunt-Willingham. "While there's really no closure, there's a little bit of a healing knowing we're going through this together."

Hunt-Willingham and several other victims' family approached officers Kim Munley and Mark Todd in the morning's awards ceremony to say thank you for their heroic efforts.  The two civilian Fort Hood police officers are credited with firing the shots that took down alleged shooter Major Nidal Hasan.

Philip Warman visited Fort Hood for the first time since his wife Juanita's death in last year's shooting.  He made the trip from Maryland as part of a healing process he says is still ongoing.

"I wanted to go down and see where she was killed and try and get a better understanding of what happened and why," said Warman. "I think that's helped."

During the public ceremony, the audience was treated to a stirring performance by 7-year-old gospel singer Rhema Marvanne that brought the audience to its feet.

"I don't think I've ever heard anything more beautiful," said Hunt-Willingham. "It really felt like it's a blessing to us and my brother."

As for Staff Sgt. Zeigler, he will be leading Saturday's Run to Remember marathon, a year after doctors told him may not survive his injuries.  He walks with a cane but will be riding in a modified bicycle for the race.

"I'm going to riding 13.1 miles on my bike," he said. "I'm going to do it for them, my mother, my family and friends, and everyone involved."

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