KILLEEN, Texas -- Hundreds of people proceeded around a park here late Friday waving American flags in a show of support for those wounded in this week's shooting at nearby Ft. Hood.
The gathering was organized by a veterans' group, Red White & Blue, and many former soldiers attended, although the crowd also included military spouses, children and active-duty troops, some in uniform.
As they walked around Lions Club Park, with its rolling green fields, squared-away sidewalks and playgrounds, they had time to consider how much their lives had changed since Wednesday's shooting.
Jennifer Mapes, 35, lives on the base. Her husband, who was not injured, was working at one of the buildings attacked by Army Spc. Ivan Lopez.
Lopez, 34, killed three and injured 16 before turning the gun on himself.
Mapes' husband went right back to work, she said, helping victims' families, including some who needed a place to stay after traveling from out of state. It was a challenge, she said, in part because his workplace was the center of the attack.
"Now it's a crime scene," Mapes said.
She brought her daughter Kara Mapes, 11, to the park.
"I feel very blessed. I think Ft. Hood is doing a really good job, and it's great to see the community coming together," Mapes said.
Susan Thomas, 48, of nearby Harker Heights, was supposed to be at Ft. Hood on the day of the shooting but didn't go. A family physician and a civilian, she had stopped working there six weeks ago but had a few things to finish up.
She had had meetings with one of the soldiers Lopez killed, she said, her eyes welling with tears as she walked.
Thomas brought her 9-year-old son, who toted an American flag that was atop a pole taller than he was.
"It helps you process it," she said of the walk. "This won't heal everything, but it's a step to get there."
Officials have said Lopez suffered from mental health issues and was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, as have other soldiers whom Thomas treated at the base.
"All of these people are under such stress," she said. "Multiple deployments -- it stretches people so thin."
With federal furloughs and military downsizing, she said, "We don't have enough counselors and counselors don't have enough [available] appointments."
Thomas said that while she was at Ft. Hood, whenever a soldier was referred to a specialist for counseling, it could take months to see one.
"The whole system is being pressed to do more and more with less and less," she said as she finished the mile-long loop and snapped photos of her son with other families.
Across town, a dozen worshipers gathered at a church flanked by billboards and scruffy fields. In the small sanctuary of New Hope Seventh-day Adventist Church, they sang "God Bless America," remembered the victims and tried to make sense of the shooting.
The shooting was a grim echo of the 2009 Ft. Hood attack, when Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan turned on the Army and his fellow soldiers, later saying he had switched sides to become a Muslim guerrilla fighter.
Now Marie Jackson was struggling during Friday's service with the same question many in this military town face: How could a soldier shoot battle buddies he was trained to defend until death?
"Soldiers are supposed to be united," said Jackson, an Army veteran. "If you can't trust the military, who can you trust?"
Jackson, 58, is married to a fellow veteran who served in the first Gulf War and suffers from PTSD that's been aggravated by the attack.
"He's arming himself," she said. "For him, it's like he's in a war all the time. There's no break in it. And now he's like, 'I'm being attacked all over again.' "
Colleen Bispham felt the same way after her husband was locked down on the base until 10 p.m. that night.
"It took me back to five years ago," said Bispham, 47, a preschool teacher. "It came alive."
Michael Boyd was at Ft. Hood the day of the shooting, and said after Friday's service that the community was still coping.
Boyd, 29, an electrician, left Ft. Hood shortly before the shooting, but returned later that day. He said the mood was somber, with some residents still distraught. The streets were quiet, almost eerie, he said.
By Friday, the gloom and anxiety had lifted, he said, as people returned to work and daily routines. But he said it would take time for soldiers and their families to fully realize the gravity of what happened and to recover.
"Over the weekend, people are going to watch the news and it's going to sink in," he said.
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