Fort Hood Community Gathers To Mourn

Hundreds gathered Friday night at Fort Hood's football stadium for a candlelight vigil for the 43 people killed and wounded Thursday.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Last night, hundreds of people gathered at the football stadium at Fort Hood for a candlelight vigil for the 43 people killed and wounded there on Thursday. Major Nidal Hasan is alleged to have walked into the post readiness center and opened fire on dozens of soldiers and civilians there.

NPR's Wade Goodwyn was at the vigil and has this report.

WADE GOODWYN: As the sun set over the Texas hill country and soldiers and their families gathered in the stands at the post football stadium, Colonel Mike Lemke called them to prayer as the cloudless blue sky turned dark purple. To the men and women who are preparing themselves to fight in some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world, the chaplain urged them toward a different part of themselves.

Colonel MIKE LEMKE (Chaplain): The circumstances that bring us together are tragic indeed. We're military. We want to take action, we want to get out there, we want to make it happen. But we also realize - and please realize -there are other things as well - listening, being quiet, speaking the soft word.

(Soundbite of song, �Good Bless America�)

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) God bless America, land that I love...

GOODWYN: Fort Hood is a deployment post. A prospect that they might be wounded or killed is a constant, if unwelcome, companion. But that they might be attacked here in Killeen, Texas by one of their own officers is a new and unsettling twist. Chaplain Major General Doug Carver tried to salve the open wound.

Major General DOUG CARVER (Chaplain): All of you here in the Fort Hood military community and the surrounding communities have been in the hearts and prayers of your military families around the world.

(Soundbite of music)

GOODWYN: For the family members of the soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's been a difficult couple of days. Bethany Off(ph), the wife of a soldier in Iraq, wept as she described her conversation with her husband.

Ms. BETHANY OFF: He didn't know what was going on. They were just told to call home. And when he called home, he asked me, and I really didn't want to tell him 'cause he has enough going on over there.

GOODWYN: Standing proudly in his military police uniform, Captain Mark Knox is chief of criminal investigations at Fort Hood. It was his colleague, 34-year-old Sergeant Kimberly Munley, who engaged the shooter in a gun battle, eventually taking him down as she was shot herself several times. Captain Knox said her bravery had elevated the civilian police corps on the post.

Captain MARK KNOX (Criminal Investigations, Fort Hood): It's really hard to look at any one individual as a hero out here because it's almost like we live in a city of heroes.

GOODWYN: Knox says the shooting taught him a lesson that the soldiers he protects have already had the unhappy opportunity to learn.

Capt. KNOX: When you walked around that scene the other night and you looked at life that was unexpectedly taken, we were reminded that we just don't, we're not promised a tomorrow.

GOODWYN: This was the first memorial to be held on post. Other, more elaborate occasions are to come - President Obama is expected next week. But as they tried to light their candles in a brisk Central Texas wind, it was clear last night was a neighborhood affair.

Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Fort Hood, Texas.

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