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Fort Hood victims had different reasons for enlisting

Friday, November 6, 2009 | 1:30 p.m. CST; updated 9:39 p.m. CST, Friday, November 6, 2009

The 13 people killed when an Army psychiatrist allegedly opened fire on fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, included a man who quit a furniture company job to join the military about a year ago, a newlywed who had served in Iraq and a woman who had vowed to take on Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Here is a look at some of the victims.

Pfc. Aaron Thomas Nemelka

Nemelka, 19, of the Salt Lake City suburb of West Jordan, Utah, chose to join the Army instead of going on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, his uncle Christopher Nemelka said.

"As a person, Aaron was as soft and kind and as gentle as they come, a sweetheart," his uncle said. "What I loved about the kid was his independence of thought."

Aaron Nemelka, the youngest of four children, was scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan in January, his family said in a statement. Nemelka had enlisted in the Army in October 2008, Utah National Guard Lt. Col. Lisa Olsen said.

Pfc. Michael Pearson

Pearson, 21, of the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook quit what he figured was a dead-end furniture company job to join the military about a year ago.

"He felt he was in a rut. He wanted to travel, see the world," his mother, Sheryll Pearson, told the Chicago Tribune. "He also wanted an opportunity to serve the country."

At Pearson's family home Friday, a yellow ribbon was tied to a porch light and a sticker stamped with American flags on the front door read, "United we stand."

Neighbor Jessica Koerber, who was with Pearson's parents when they received word Thursday their son had died, described him as a man who clearly loved his family — someone who enjoyed horsing around with his nieces and nephews, and other times playing his guitar.

"That family lost their gem," she told The Associated Press. "He was a great kid, a great guy. ... Mikey was one of a kind."

Sheryll Pearson said she hadn't seen her son for a year because he had been training. She told the Tribune that when she last talked to him on the phone two days ago, they had discussed how he would come home for Christmas.

 

Spc. Jason Dean Hunt

Hunt, 22, of Federick, Okla., went into the military after graduating from Tipton High School in 2005 and had gotten married just two months ago, his mother, Gale Hunt, said. He had served 3 1/2 years in the Army, including a stint in Iraq.

Gale Hunt said two uniformed soldiers came to her door late Thursday night to notify her of her son's death.

Hunt, known as J.D., was "just kind of a quiet boy and a good kid, very kind," said Kathy Gray, an administrative assistant at Tipton Schools.

His mother said he was family oriented.

"He didn't go in for hunting or sports," Gale Hunt said. "He was a very quiet boy who enjoyed video games."

He had re-enlisted for six years after serving his initial two-year assignment, she said. Jason Hunt was previously stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia.

 

Sgt. Amy Krueger

Krueger, 29, of Kiel, Wis., joined the Army after the 2001 terrorist attacks and had vowed to take on Osama bin Laden, her mother, Jeri Krueger said.

Amy Krueger arrived at Fort Hood on Tuesday and was scheduled to be sent to Afghanistan in December, the mother told the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter.

Jeri Krueger recalled telling her daughter that she could not take on bin Laden by herself.

"Watch me," her daughter replied.

Kiel High School Principal Dario Talerico told the AP that Krueger graduated from the school in 1998 and had spoken at least once to local elementary school students about her career.

"I just remember that Amy was a very good kid, who like most kids in a small town are just looking for what their next step in life was going to be and she chose the military," Talerico said. "Once she got into the military, she really connected with that kind of lifestyle and was really proud to serve her country."

 

 


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