Survivors, Victims' Families React to Hasan's Death Sentence
Survivors and victims' families expressed relief, closure, and calls for swift justice after a military panel sentenced Major Nidal Hasan to death for the murders and attempted murders at Fort Hood on November 5, 2009.
The family of slain Ft. Hood physician's assistant Michael Cahill is satisfied with the verdict but will never forget what he meant to them. His wife Joleen and daughters Keely and Kerry are determined to keep his memory alive and change how the government views terrorism:
"I want Congress to pass a bill that gives the definitions of terrorism and we need a plan of attack here because there's international terrorism, there's domestic terrorism," said Kerry. "We really need to delve into that discussion and what is terrorism and what is this in relation to that and what do we mean by that?"
"He was very special and people come up to me and say, 'Well, what can we do?' and I say, 'He's an inspiration to you, you do something good and you go on with your life and make your life a good one," Joleen said.
Specialist James Dean "JD" Hunt's mother Gayle and sisters spoke to their local media outlet after the sentencing. What will give them closure is remembering JD and hoping the media will now concentrate on the victims and survivors:
"As a Christian, I cannot say I wish anyone death for crimes against me or my family but that doesn't mean that I'm opposed to the death penalty," Gayle said.
Gale Hunt showed her son's photo to the media throng assembled at Fort Hood, telling them: "This is my son, JD Hunt. I'm tired of seeing Hasan's photo in the newspaper."
"Everyone goes through this a different way and my way has been to find a way to just find peace and love somehow in all of this hate and death," Leila says. "I do not find any joy in the death penalty or any happiness in knowing someone else is going to die because I know as a family member, what it's going to be like to have to go through that and he does have a family and I've met them and they're good people.
Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Royal was shot twice by Hasan. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and said the sentence brings him little relief:
"My impression from that is may God have mercy on his soul," Royal told the Statesman shortly after the sentence was reached. "I was not rooting for the decision go either way. The biggest regret that I have is that I wasn't able to get my hands on him [on Nov. 5, 2009]."
"I'm a man who doesn't believe in revenge," Royal said. "So I won't declare that his sentence will help my situation at all…It's Nov. 5 every day for me."
Sergeant Kimberly Munley was wounded when she confronted and took down Hasan. She said the sentence brings more closure:
"It is yet another day of closure for the victims of the Fort Hood 'terror attack' and the Fort Hood community," Munley said in a statement. "We respect the panel members' decisions and hold them with utmost respect for insuring justice was served in this trial."
"It comes with great relief to know that we can finally move forward with getting the reclassification back on the forefront," Munley said in the statement. "The battle has not yet been completely won for the victims and we still have a big fight ahead. I ask that you all continue to support them and stand with us in our mission to right this wrong."
The family of Captain John Gaffaney, also killed in the attack, released this statement:
The family of Captain John Paul Gaffaney would like to acknowledge the expertise and fine work of our prosecution team. They have worked tirelessly and selflessly to bring this case to its necessary conclusion. The support that we have each received from our family, friends, colleagues and the greater nation, as well as the National Tragedy Assistance Program, has been enormously appreciated – as we have worked through the agony of this tragedy. Thank you all for continuing to honor and support our fallen and our wounded.
Slain Lt. Col. Juanita L. Warman's daughter Melissa Czemerda said the family is thankful for the verdict:
We are thankful for the just verdict that has finally been rendered. However, we are very dissatisfied with the media attention to Hasan and his extremist views. These types of murderers thrive on media attention. It promotes violence for other disturbed individuals seeking a platform for their sick and twisted views. We hope in the future the media will concentrate on the impact tragedies have on the survivors.
Staff Sgt. Amy S. Krueger's mother Jerri said the verdict brought relief after her daughter's murder:
We have finally come to the end of one long emotional journey. Although the pain of losing Amy will always weigh heavy upon us, we have some relief knowing that Hasan was found guilty without doubt and that he will pay for what he did.
Teena Nemelka, who lost her son Pfc. Aaron T. Nemelka's in the attack, does not think the death penalty will make Hasan a martyr:
First, I would like to thank the prosecution team for their hard work and diligence to bring Hasan to justice. I have been much relieved that justice has been reached. We have all heard that Hasan believes with the death penalty that he will be seen as a martyr, but I know and feel that he is a coward, a traitor and a murderer. He was convicted of 13 counts of premeditated murder!! I am happy and satisfied with that. I appreciate the support and prayers from so many out there.
Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford was shot seven times, still has a bullet in his back, and is being treating for PTSD. However, he said the verdict does not bring closure:
"When we are dealing with the death penalty, it should not have to be where he waits 26 years like the other person that is on death row," said Lunsford. "Where now we need to go ahead, and put down the sword of justice swiftly. To add to that for the people that was in command of him is to simply say 'We are sorry we dropped the ball. This will happen again.'"
Former Private Amber Bahr Gadlin, who testified against Hasan for shooting and wounding her, is relieved with the sentence:
"With the judge not allowing certain things into evidence to prove he was in contact with al Quaeda, I honestly thought he'd be found not guilty or guilty of lesser charges," said Gadlin, 23, a former Random Lake resident who now lives in Albuquerque with her husband and son. "I really honestly thought that was going to happen. I definitely didn't think they were going to give him a death sentence and that's what we all wanted. That kind of put a smile on my face."
A group named Join Hands America is working to create a Fort Hood Memorial, but the project needs more funds. The survivors and victims' families are encouraging people to donate.