Wagner remembered in solemn 9/11 tribute at Fort Sam Houston
September 17, 2010
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- In the early morning hours of Sept. 11, as the sun was just starting to come up on a beautiful San Antonio day, a group of about a dozen Soldiers and civilians gathered at a small grave marker in the sprawling Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.
They were there to honor a friend and colleague that was lost in the terrible events of that day nine years earlier.
Lt. Col. Karen Wagner lost her life as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., where she was serving as an Army Medical Department staff officer in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel.
Wagner, a member of the Medical Service Corps and 17-year Army veteran, was stationed at Fort Sam Houston from 1987 to 1990 and graduated from Judson High School on San Antonio's northeast side in 1979.
The colonel grew up in a military family in San Antonio and was a 1984 graduate of the ROTC program at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. She also earned a master's in health services administration at the San Antonio campus of Webster University in 1992. She was in the process of obtaining her Ph.D. from Old Dominion University at the time of her death.
As those present lit candles in Wagner's memory, Col. Tom Little, the Corps Specific Branch Proponency Officer for the Medical Service Corps at the U.S. Army Medical Department Center & School, talked of Wagner's many career highlights in his opening remarks. Included was her stint as executive officer and company commander for Company D of the 187th Medical Battalion at Fort Sam Houston.
Little also noted that Wagner, who was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1984, had been promoted to lieutenant colonel just two months before Sept. 11, 2001.
"Karen always left us with laughter and joy," said Wanda Hubert, a longtime friend of Wagner's who spoke at the annual remembrance gathering. "She would always be thinking of what she could do to make us smile."
Wagner's memory was also commemorated in 2005 when the Judson Independent School District named a high school after her. She was vice president of her senior class, a member of the National Honor Society and voted as "Most Athletic" by her peers. She garnered all-district honors in basketball, was a top finisher in the 440-yard dash in the state track meet.
Wagner was also a member of the Medical Careers Club, the Heritage Society Club, Judson Student Council and the Judson Air Force Junior ROTC while at Judson.
On Fort Sam Houston, the 32nd Medical Brigade's headquarters at Building 902 has been dedicated and renamed for Wagner as well.
"We began our careers together and often visited with each other, said Hubert, who retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel in 2004 and now works as a program manager in the clinical service division at AMEDD C&S. "On the day the attacks happened, I had just talked to Karen earlier that morning and made plans to meet for lunch. I was on temporary duty in Washington, D.C., serving on an officer selection board. Karen had taken over the job I had served in.
"We didn't find out until that evening that she lost her life when the aircraft hit the Pentagon," Hubert said. "We couldn't believe we had lost Karen."
The annual tribute to Wagner has been going on every Sept. 11 since 2002, Hubert said. "No matter what kind of day we had, she always had the ability to smile and make us all break out in laughter."