From Fort Hood: Thirteen glimpses of who we are

If there is a sliver of good to be found in what happened at Fort Hood, it may be the fact that the 13 casualties reflect the great melting pot of the American military.

Following are descriptions of those killed, from President Barack Obama’s address this afternoon:

Chief Warrant Officer Michael Cahill had served in the National Guard and worked as a physician’s assistant for decades. A husband and father of three, he was so committed to his patients that on the day he died, he was back at work just weeks after having had a heart attack.

Major Libardo Eduardo Caraveo spoke little English when he came to America as a teenager. But he put himself through college, earned a PhD, and was helping combat units cope with the stress of deployment. He’s survived by his wife, sons and step-daughters.

Staff Sergeant Justin DeCrow joined the Army right after high school, married his high school sweetheart, and had served as a light wheeled mechanic and satellite communications operator. He was known as an optimist, a mentor, and a loving husband and loving father.

After retiring from the Army as a major, John Gaffaney cared for society’s most vulnerable during two decades as a psychiatric nurse. He spent three years trying to return to active duty in this time of war, and he was preparing to deploy to Iraq as a captain. He leaves behind a wife and son.

Specialist Frederick Greene was a Tennessean who wanted to join the Army for a long time, and did so in 2008, with the support of his family. As a combat engineer he was a natural leader, and he is survived by his wife and two daughters.

Specialist Jason Hunt was also recently married, with three children to care for. He joined the Army after high school. He did a tour in Iraq, and it was there that he reenlisted for six more years on his 21st birthday so that he could continue to serve.

Staff Sergeant Amy Krueger was an athlete in high school, joined the Army shortly after 9/11, and had since returned home to speak to students about her experience. When her mother told her she couldn’t take on Osama bin Laden by herself, Amy replied: “Watch me.”

Private First Class Aaron Nemelka was an Eagle Scout who just recently signed up to do one of the most dangerous jobs in the service — diffuse bombs — so that he could help save lives. He was proudly carrying on a tradition of military service that runs deep within his family.

Private First Class Michael Pearson loved his family and loved his music, and his goal was to be a music teacher. He excelled at playing the guitar, and could create songs on the spot and show others how to play. He joined the military a year ago, and was preparing for his first deployment.

Captain Russell Seager worked as a nurse for the VA, helping veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress. He had extraordinary respect for the military, and signed up to serve so that he could help soldiers cope with the stress of combat and return to civilian life. He leaves behind a wife and son.

Private Francheska Velez, daughter of a father from Colombia and a Puerto Rican mother, had recently served in Korea and in Iraq, and was pursuing a career in the Army. When she was killed she was pregnant with her first child, and was excited about becoming a mother.

Lieutenant Colonel Juanita Warman was the daughter and granddaughter of Army veterans. She was a single mom who put herself through college and graduate school, and served as a nurse practitioner while raising her two daughters. She also left behind a loving husband.

Private First Class Kham Xiong came to America from Thailand as a small child. He was a husband and father who followed his brother into the military because his family had a strong history of service. He was preparing for his first deployment to Afghanistan.

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15 comments Add your comment


November 10th, 2009
4:45 pm

“…the 13 casualties reflect the great melting pot of the American military.”

And you might add, the melting pot of the USA. As I watched the ceremony on TV, that was my thought as President Obama went through their names & backgrounds. The diversity of this wonderful country.

As a veteran I always find these events both moving and emotional.
“There but for the grace of God go I.”

I survived my turn in 1968, many did not.

Kathy Slough

November 10th, 2009
5:00 pm

My thoughts and prayers are with all 13 who were killed. Thank you for serving in the military and may you rest in peace. These 13 casualities doing their job do indeed reflect the great melting pot of the American military and of all Americans.

Meridith Ford Goldman

November 10th, 2009
5:05 pm

Jim, thanks for this moving post. As the daughter of a multi-tour veteran (my father, a retired Col., served as a Marine in Korea, and served two tours of duty in Vietnam), I will be thinking of them tomorrow, on Veteran’s day. Thanks for sharing who these great men and women were — and will always be to their country and their families. My prayers are with them. Semper Fi.

The Snark

November 10th, 2009
5:34 pm

I am reminded of my last visit to the Wall in Washington. Read any group of names and you see the melting pot before your eyes, a roll call of warriors who came from every point on the globe to serve under the American flag … Johnson, Wong, Garcia, Gunnarsson, Schmidt, Lamieux, Akiro …

If you really want to honor their sacrifice, then treat each other like fellow Americans and learn to disagree respectfully.


November 10th, 2009
5:40 pm

Thanks for sharing this moving story. I’ve always liked the idea of America being a “salad bowl” rather than a “melting pot.” Although folks like me are kind of the boring staple of the iceberg lettuce, others add the flavor that really makes the salad.


November 10th, 2009
5:44 pm

God bless these men and women. Condolences to the family and friends left behind.

Jim Galloway

November 10th, 2009
5:53 pm

If I remember correctly, the phrase “melting pot” comes from the name of a Broadway play of the 1890s — maybe 1900s, that took immigration as its topic. The title is a reference to the bowl of bubbling metal in a steel factory. So it is a fiery crucible, and not at all a kindly stew pot. It’s a hot and unpleasant place where stronger alloys are created.


November 10th, 2009
6:06 pm

My just almost 22 year old son leaves for the Navy Dec. 8th…the Great Lakes region.

I have such mixed feelings about this: my only child, homeschooled, Quaker raised, but he wants to serve his country.

I am proud of him, but fearful. There’s a war going on and it doesn’t seem to quit. But I am just one mother..parent….who is facing this.

God Bless all who serve.


November 10th, 2009
6:16 pm

I’m glad that President Obama put a human face on this tragedy; observers don’t usually distinguish the people in the uniforms when they see us in public. I would like for you to put in a special appreciation and prayer. Five of those Soldiers were among the ones we memorialized today, but they have battle buddies who must continue to persevere and train for deployment. They are unable to be with their loved ones full time because we practice immersion training for these troops so they can be at peak performance for their assignments.
Once again, thank you for your support of the troops.


November 10th, 2009
6:18 pm

Sorry, five of the 13 Soldiers were with Army Reserve and National Guard units and those units are not able to go home to their families at night because they are not training in their home areas.

Don't come here, or Go Away

November 10th, 2009
7:26 pm

Has anyone said if that Ft. Hood shooter is a natural-born US citizen? I haven’t heard. If people don’t like it here, go the hell back where you came from.

And you White people who still want to discriminate against Black Americans who were born here and helped make this country need to step back and take a look at who the enemy is of all of us–fundamentalist, extremist Muslims and other people invading and taking over our country. May our servicemen rest in peace.

And a certain so-called “prestigious” local HBCU needs to stay out of the news; too much bad press. Almost every darn day there’s some bad news coming from those parts. Sorry to say it, but it’s true. Go away.


November 10th, 2009
9:21 pm

@ Don’t come here:

Why would you inject a racial statement in this issue? Would it be at all appropriate for me to make the statement that terrorists…Muslim fundamentalists, extremists…are being succored within Black communities in Atlanta, Detroit, NYC, etc??

This is the time to lay down those divisions…

You are talking out of both sides of your mouth. However. Peace. This situation at Fort Hood should unite Americans…ALL races, because it’s not just a narrow issue of Black and White.

Not divide us amongst a racial agenda.


November 10th, 2009
10:13 pm

Thanks to Allah and the “peaceful” religion of Islam for this great carnage.


November 11th, 2009
9:54 am

On Veterans Day lets forget the hateful rhetoric and remember all of those who “gave the last full measure of devotion” at Fort Hood and all over the world. For us and our Country

Chris Mathews is covered in his own spittle because he is drinking, again.

November 11th, 2009
11:39 pm

Has Obama been able to figure out it was terrorism, yet He had no problem “jumping to conclusions” with the belligerent Harvard Professor Case. Remember his, “cop acted stupidly” comment? Obama’s willful igornace is dangerous.