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Deaths, violence cast shadows over Fort Hood

By Heather Osbourne, Austin American-Statesman on

Published in News & Features

AUSTIN, Texas - Like many mothers of active-duty soldiers, Patricia Troyan had always feared her son would be lost on the battlefield.

She never imagined, though, that her bright, courageous 21-year-old soldier would die by his own hands several months after being stationed at Fort Hood.

Her story illustrates a year marked by grief, pain and sometimes anger for many families linked to Fort Hood, the U.S. Army's largest military installation historically known by the nickname plastered on a sign outside its front gates: "The Great Place."

For the past 20 years, Fort Hood earned a national reputation as a staging ground for troops deploying to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but now national attention has focused on a string of soldier deaths at home, including five in which foul play is suspected.

The Central Texas post is now at the center of military, congressional and independent investigations into its leaders and several of the soldiers' deaths.

Two of the cases listed in the congressional investigation - those of Spc. Vanessa Guillen and Sgt. Elder Fernandes - involve reports of sexual assault and harassment, which sparked a separate investigation into how the post handles claims of sexual misconduct.

 

"Behind me is the sign reading 'Fort Hood. The Great Place,'" U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said when her congressional delegation visited Killeen recently. "I don't think any of us feel we can call it a great place right now."

Speier, who kicked off a congressional investigation into Fort Hood on Sept. 18, read aloud several statements made by Fort Hood military families during the congressional visit:

_"I don't feel safe on base."

_"Fort Hood is where careers go to die."

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