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Texans Observe Veterans Day at Fort Hood

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Texans Observe Veterans Day at Fort Hood

By Erin Baxter

For the second year in a row, Fort Hood has organized the Veterans Day ‘boots’ memorial. Theresa Johnson, manager of Fort Hood’s Fisher House, brought the idea to life in hopes of remembering every sacrifice made.

“Theresa and her team of volunteers put a lot of effort into this display, and we can’t thank them enough,” said Elizabeth Montez, a 17-year military wife and mother of two. Montez owns EVM Photography in Salado, TX and specializes in wildlife and landscape photography.

James Montez, Elizabeth’s husband, is a Black Hawk helicopter mechanic and has made numerous friends over the years who have served in the armed forces. Many of them are memorialized in the row upon row of boots on display. One young woman in particular is very special to the Montez family.

Texans Observe Veterans Day at Fort Hood

Photo: Capt. Sara Knutson

“My husband is active duty military and will have 20 years in January. We went to the memorial yesterday afternoon and again this morning so he could visit a particular boot of a friend, Sara Knutson,” said Montez.

Texans Observe Veterans Day at Fort Hood

Photo: Chris and Sara Cullen (west-point.org)

Capt. Sara Knutson Cullen, 27, was married to Chris Cullen who gave up his career as an Army helicopter pilot in 2012 to start a family with his new wife. A month after Sara was deployed to Afghanistan, Chris, a former Black Hawk helicopter pilot, deployed to the country to work for a private contracting company. On the fateful day of March 11, 2013, the helicopter Army Capt. Sara Knutson was flying in crashed in stormy weather near Kandahar, killing all five soldiers aboard.

Texans Observe Veterans Day at Fort Hood

Photo: Grieving Cullen Family (savannahnow.com)

“On 13MAR13 I had the unfortunate honor of returning to US soil with the fallen aircrew of 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade. My sadness over the loss of my wife CPT Sara M (Knutson) Cullen was overpowered by the honor and pride of being among fallen brothers and sisters as they were brought home one last time. They are true heroes. They will never be forgotten and will be missed forever. To the family and friends of all the aircrew, know that many across this nation and a few other countries, grieve alongside of you. Many heavy hearts and many prayers are with you,” Christopher Cullen told CNN iReport News in 2013.

Texans Observe Veterans Day at Fort Hood

Photo: Elizabeth Montez, EVM Photography

“I had the opportunity today to go and visit the 7,098 boots that are sitting on the ground at III Corps at Fort Hood. The boots represent Soldiers that have lost their lives. Each boot has the service member’s picture and information on a tag, and they are arranged by the year they passed away,” said Montez, voice trembling. “It is a very humbling display, and while looking at this, you can get an idea of how many we have lost, and the families and friends they are affected by the deaths of these Soldiers. They are all husbands, wives, fathers and mothers, and sons and daughters, and uncles and aunts, etc. and friends to many… and loved by all!”

Montez said that she sat down in front of another boot nearby, crying with a widow who had recently lost her husband. “She told me she tries to go down every row, and visit every boot, to thank everyone for their sacrifice.”

Texans Observe Veterans Day at Fort Hood

Photo: Karin Markert

The memorial is dedicated to soldiers who have died since September 11, 2001. There are 34 rows of boots, each with its own flag, picture and the name of a military member who has died. Those who have visited say seeing the exhibit is hard to put into words.

Photographer Karin Markert has created a page dedicated to naming all of the fallen remembered at Fort Hood. “Volunteers have worked long hours on this project, attaching the service members’ photos and basic service information to each boot, placing them along the route, and then relocating them to the field next to III Corps Headquarters. It’s important to remember our fallen Heroes, to never forget their lives, their service, and their sacrifice. Hopefully, family members and friends who were not able to see this display at Fort Hood will be able to find their Hero’s boot in the collection of photos.”

The display will be open to the public until November 14.