One year later, Army family finds strength in Fort Hood's darkest day
November 8, 2010
FORT HOOD, Texas - The darkest day at this Central Texas installation, Nov. 5, 2009, was marked by the deaths of 12 Soldiers and one civilian, but also the heroic efforts of Soldiers, civilians and first responders who rushed in to help the dying and more than 30 wounded.
One year later, 52 of those who fought to save the wounded and stop the gunman were honored during an awards ceremony that included the unveiling of a granite monument in memory of the 13 lost in the shooting.
A year to the day that is "forever etched in the consciousness of Fort Hood and the Army," Fort Hood senior commander Maj. Gen. Will Grimsley focused on the well-trained and disciplined patriots - Soldiers and civilians - and took time to recognize them.
There were the police officers who ran into to stop the gunman and contain the chaos. Firefighters, emergency medical technicians, doctors and nurses who provided aid to the wounded and Soldiers and civilians delivering what comfort and treatment they could.
"Their actions inspire awe," Grimsley said.
On that day, active-duty or reserve component, Soldier or civilian, medical professional or not, none of that mattered. Those inside and around the medical building of the Soldier readiness processing center complex showed the meaning of Army family.
"We gather today as we did then - as a family," Secretary of the Army John McHugh said during his remarks. "We remain today stronger as one. Today is a firm renewal of that bond."
As the awards were announced and delivered, stories of heroism one year ago were fresh in the collective memory of the crowd.
Combat medic Staff Sgt. Zackary Filip was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for his actions in providing medical aid and treatment to those wounded during the shooting. Filip also was named the Army Times 2010 Soldier of the Year earlier this year for his actions on Nov. 5, 2009.
At the awards ceremony, Filip said it was "awesome" to be recognized, but the most rewarding part was "seeing some of the people I worked on and meeting the families of those I provided aid to."
Filip was at the SRP site one year ago to take care of his overdue post-deployment checks and paperwork. When the gunshots rang out, Filip ran toward the shooting and began treating the injured.
One year removed from the event, Filip said meeting families and talking to those he helped was bigger than any medal that could be pinned on his chest.
"Today was very healing for me, as well," he said. "I cried more today than I have in a year."
At the ceremony, Filip met the family of Capt. John Gaffany, a member of the 467th Combat Stress Control Detachment, Army Reserve. Gaffaney died from his wounds on Nov. 5, and refused medical treatment when Filip tried to render aid. Gaffaney's wife, Joleen hugged and thanked Filip.
Gaffaney was posthumously awarded the Soldier's Medal during the ceremony for his actions that day. The Army Reservist was fatally shot after he threw a chair at the gunman. The award was accepted by his wife.
Gaffaney's was one of 10 Soldier's Medals awarded that day.
Sergeant 1st Class Maria Guerra was another one who was recognized. Guerra, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the SRP building at the time, took charge of the situation and barricaded the doors to prevent the gunman from re-entering the building.
"NCO mode kicked in right away," Guerra said. "The first thing I thought about was my Soldiers."
Her training kicked in immediately at Guerra began ordering others to provide aid to the wounded and helping those who could be helped.
"Getting people out was the only thing I was thinking about," she said. "Telling people to move on was hard on me...it still is."
The two police officers credited with ending the gunfire also were honored that day.
McHugh presented officers Mark Todd and Kimberly Munley the Secretary of the Army Award for Valor.
Todd said the award and recognition were bittersweet. He said he thinks about the families constantly.
"My life day-to-day is still the same, but the lives of 13 others are not," Todd said. "It feels a little awkward."
Following the award presentations, a granite monument in tribute to the 13 killed Nov. 5, 2009, was unveiled.
Etched with the inscription, "Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, Love leaves a memory no one can steal," and the 13 names and units of those lost, the granite memorial rests in Memorial Park as a lasting reminder of all their sacrifices that day.