Soldiers React To Fort Hood Memorial

NPR's Wade Goodwyn talks to host Melissa Block about the Fort Hood memorial service and the reaction from soldiers on post.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And NPR's Wayne Goodwyn joins us now from Fort Hood where he witnessed that memorial service today, and Wade, that roll call, such a chilling moment in this ceremony this afternoon. What struck you the most about the ceremony?

WADE GOODWYN: Well, it was difficult not to get choked up a little when the roll call was called. The soldiers crying out their names followed by those periods of silence, but the ceremony itself in its entirety was full of emotion. The president recounting the heroism of the soldiers both in and out of the readiness center where the attack occurred. I thought his remarks about how those who died, that the memory of them endure in the life of our nation. He said every moment that an American enjoys life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that's their legacy. They paid the price for the burden to defend our nation.

The civilians, I think, were more emotional than the troops. I guess that's probably to be expected. There was a lot of grief, pride mixed together. And for the soldiers, I think, renewed determination. They got hit at home and that has made plenty of these men and women angry.

BLOCK: And a huge crowd there today. We mentioned the Army says there were 15,000 people in attendance for this ceremony, and you did speak with some of them. What did they tell you?

GOODWYN: Well, the shock's not worn off. I mean, there used to be a sense that this was a safe port - that's gone now. People here have a feeling that something valuable was stolen from them, like coming home and finding a thief rifling through the house, who has taken some of your most precious possessions. I think as time goes by, and hopefully nothing like this happens again, some of that feeling of betrayal will wear off.

The other thing that almost everyone says is they can't get over the fact that a major allegedly killed all these people. You know, they don't expect something like this from anybody, but certainly not from a high-ranking officer. Captains, majors, colonels don't go berserk. They help hold everything together and that's skewed people's perceptions of the way the world works.

BLOCK: Wade, we heard President Obama say in his remarks that no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts. And we've heard leaders from Fort Hood echoing those sentiments. There is concern, though, about a backlash against other Muslim soldiers. Have you been hearing people talk about that?

GOODWYN: Yes. I mean, there's more than 100 Muslim soldiers in III Corps. And General Bob Cone told us yesterday that he's committed to making sure that they're in good shape, that they're not going to experience undue harassment from this incident, but, you know, certainly this kind of thing does not help our Muslims in uniform. Who knows what Major Hasan allegedly was trying to achieve with this act. But whatever that might've been, it did the opposite.

It seems to me this has just hardened the Army's determination to achieve the missions. The shooting only facilitated the Western character of Muslims as violent extremists and for the Muslim soldiers who loyally serve this nation both here at Ford Hood and around the country, they especially have cause to resent what Major Hasan has allegedly done here.

BLOCK: And Wade, what happens now at Fort Hood?

GOODWYN: Well, I mean, you know, this is a major depot for facilitating the war in both theaters. I mean, they get back to work. I mean, they really haven't stopped working. So, they are shipping hundreds of soldiers and tons of material out every day and this post is going to get back to work.

BLOCK: Wade, thanks very much.

GOODWYN: My pleasure.

BLOCK: That's NPR's Wade Goodwyn at Fort Hood.

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