21-year-old private injured at Ft. Hood

Loved ones mourn other Chicago area victims
November 7, 2009 (CHICAGO) VIDEO: 3 other local soldiers dead in Fort Hood shooting

VIDEO: Local woman killed in Ft. Hood shooting
VIDEO: Bolingbrook man among Ft. Hood victims

A soldier from Chicago's south suburbs was shot three times in the rampage at Fort Hood. Relatives say he told them he was the gunman's first victim.

Private First Class Najee Hull has been released from intensive care and was recovering from his wounds.

Hull, a Homewood native, was in the military personnel center at Ft. Hood when he says the gunman came in through a door and began shooting.

Private Hull was heavily sedated Saturday night, but he was expected to survive, and he was shared details about what happened with his family.

"He walked in, said something to Allah, and just shot him. He said he couldn't believe that just happened," the victim's brother, Nate Hull, recounted outside the Texas hospital where his brother was recovering.

Najee Hull reportedly told his family the allegedly murderous major, Nidal Malik Hasan, didn't stop with one shot and there was no getting away.

"He fell, was like, 'Is this really happening?' He was in shock. He said he was crawling, and the guy just kept shooting as he was crawling to the cubicle. Then, [he] got shot two more times," Nate Hull said.

The 21-year-old victim, a Homewood-Flossmoor High School graduate, was shot once in the leg and twice in the back. Doctors say one bullet came within two inches of his heart.

"They took him out of ICU yesterday, which we thank God for that. He's on the general floor now. That's a blessing," said Nate Hull.

"I never would have thought something like this could happen on American soil. I thought he was safe," said the soldier's sister, Nanette Hull.

Najee Hulls' two sisters have spoken with him by telephone. They say he was in a great deal of pain but was able to share a few simple, yet powerful words:

"[He said] he was okay and he loved me," Nala Pearson said.

She added that those words meant a lot to her.

As for Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the two sisters, along with countless other families across the country have only simple questions.

"Why?" said Pearson. "What went through your head? Why would you do that? [It] makes no sense to me at all."

"It doesn't matter his motive, to me, because it was wrong, no matter what reason he came up with," Nanette Hull said.

One of the bullets hit Private Najee Hull in the knee. Doctors worked Saturday to remove it. While his condition is improving, it is still too early to say when or if he'll be able to walk again.

Another injured victim of the Fort Hood shootings is from Rockford, Ill.

Captain Dorothy Carskadon, 47, was shot twice in the hip. She was at Fort Hood preparing to deploy to Afghanistan next month to counsel soldiers dealing with post traumatic stress issues.

Friends have gathered for two prayer vigils at her church in Rockford since the shootings.

Captain Carskadon remained in critical condition Saturday in a Texas hospital.

3 other local soldiers dead in Fort Hood shootings

Three other soldiers from the Chicagoland area- including a pregnant woman- were also killed during the shootings at Fort Hood.

The victims are identified as Michael Pearson of Bolingbrook, Ill., and Francheska Velez, of Chicago. Velez was pregnant, according to her family.

A third area victim, Russell Seager, is from nearby Racine, Wis. Relatives says he wanted to help soldiers with the experiences of war.

Seager was a nurse practioner at Milwaukee's VA Medical Center, where the flag now flies at half staff. He lived in Racine, Wisconsin.

"A quiet, quiet neighbor…for that to happen to him is horrible," said Gil Mann, neighbor.

Another victime, Amy Krueger was from Kiel, Wis., which is near Sheboygan. She was 29 years old and arrived in Fort Hood on Tuesday.

Thirteen people died and 30 others were injured when a man opened fire on his fellow soldiers at a processing center at Fort Hood. The suspect is hospitalized in a coma.

Bolingbrook man among Ft. Hood victims

A suburban Chicago man was one of the 13 people killed in the shooting rampage at Fort Hood. Michael Pearson, 21, was preparing for deployment to the Middle East when he was shot and killed Thursday.

Pearson grew up in suburban Bolingbrook. The porch of his mother's townhouse was draped in red, white and blue Friday. Friends and family visited the home all day to comfort one another.

"He was the best son in the whole world," said the victim's mother, Sheryll Pearson.

Michael Pearson had been in the Army one year and 13 days when he died. His family prepared for the dangers ahead but never imagined the fate he faced at Ft. Hood.

"I was just shocked because I was preparing for him to come home for Christmas, and I knew he would probably be deployed in January," Sheryll Pearson said.

As news of the shooting ricocheted around the country Thursday and landed in Bolingbrook, Pearson's family thought the 21-year-old was safe. He had already received inoculations for overseas deployment. So, they assumed he would have no business in the center where the shooting took place.

"This was just amazing to me. It still doesn't seem real to me. I don't know. I'm still wondering what happened," the mother said.

"The overriding theme today is this has happened so senselessly because of fear and cowardice," said Mike Dostalek, the soldier's cousin.

Pearson was a 2006 graduate of Bolingbrook High School. At Bolingbrook High School, the flag was coincidentally at half staff Friday. The principal says it is lowered when any soldier from Illinois is killed.

Shortly after Pearson graduated, friends and family say, he decided the ticket to a better future was joining the military, so he could eventually attend college.

"He was a lover of music. He was in one of our music technology course and did very well in that," said James Mitchem, Bolingbrook High School principal. "He thrived in school academically. He was socially well adjusted because he had no disciplinary problems. So, to me, he seemed to me a decent kid who unfortunately was met with a tragic end, as a result of what took place at Fort Hood.

Friday, Dostalek read from a song the young soldier wrote recently. It is a song in which he described looking forward to growing old and the people he'd meet along the way.

"Everyone has a place in my story," Dostalek read. "One day, [I'll] play you a tune that represents the role you played in my life," read Dostalek.

Two Army officers in full dressed arrived at the Pearson's home Friday evening, perhaps to help make funeral arrangements.

Local woman killed in Ft. Hood shooting

The Army says a pregnant woman originally from the Chicago area was killed at Fort Hood.

Francheska Velez, 21, of Chicago's Northwest Side, was among those killed in a shooting rampage Thursday on the Texas Army base.

Private Velez was three months pregnant and was scheduled to begin maternity leave in December.

Velez is the latest victim of the Fort Hood massacre. The family learned of her death late Thursday night. Father Juan Velez says there are no words that can express the pain he is feeling.

"It's something very painful…it's a great loss…there are no words to express our sorrow," said Velez.

Velez had been in the service for three years and returned this week from a tour of duty in Iraq. She was in the third month of her pregnancy and was in Fort Hood filling out paper work when the gunman started shooting.

"She was courageous. Nobody had the heart to do what she did. She was so young, beautiful," said Jennifer Arzuaga, Velez's cousin.

Velez's father says he worried about her when she talked about her missions in Iraq and never expected something like this to happen to his daughter in the United States.

"There should have been a red flag. If he wanted a discharge for a reasons, they should have let him go," said Herbie Mojica, victim's uncle.

Velez's family says she was happy and loved her country and serving in the military.

"She was going to re-enlist and started a tour of duty in Korea and she served a tour duty in Iraq and she was in the processing phase and then this occurred," said the family spokesperson.

The family said the last time they saw her was August 28, her 21st birthday, when she came home.

"She came home in August, she came as a surprise," said Velez. "Of course, I am proud of her."

Family says that she was excited to be home. She called her mom saying how anxious she was to become a mother and looking forward to buying baby clothes. Her family was looking forward to seeing her and talking about the future grandchild.

"It would have been fun. Apparently she's up there watching over us right now so that's what matters," said Sandy Rivera, Velez's cousin.

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