Vigil held for Chicago soldier killed in Ft. Hood attack

November 9, 2009 (CHICAGO) Private Velez was one of 13 soldiers killed in the shootings at Fort Hood last week.

The vigil was held outside her family's Northwest Side home.

It was a vigil that went from daylight to dark.

Out came the candles, the tears and hugs, and the memories of 21-year-old Army Private Francheska Velez.

"She was excited. She was getting ready to buy baby clothes and start her brand new life," said Melissa Morton, cousin.

Velez had just finished a tour of duty in Iraq and came home early after finding out she was three months pregnant.

But on Thursday, she was one of 13 people killed when an Army psychiatrist opened fire at the Fort Hood military base in Texas.

On Monday night, family and friends filled the staircase of her Humboldt Park home, sharing memories and wondering if their questions about her killer will ever be answered.

"Honestly, I don't believe so. I just hope he doesn't die and we get some kind of answers," said Martha Pedraza.

"She wasn't at war, she was here and it's just horrible that something like this could happen to such a beautiful person," said Elizabeth Pedraza, family friend.

Many knew her from her days at Kelvyn Park High School. They called her "Cheka" and say she loved to dance.

"There was salsa, merengue, bachata, just about anything. If you could put a beat to it, Cheka could dance to it. And she loved it...she loved it dearly," said Gerarldo Rodriguez, friend.

But a few here didn't know her at all. Sister Mary Carr says after seeing two Chicago area soldiers were killed -- Velez and 21-year-old Michael Pearson of Bolingbrook -- she had to be here.

"Even though the family doesn't know me, I just wanted them to know that there are a lot of us out there who care," said Sister Mary Carr from Romeoville.

Private Velez's father has travelled down to Texas to attend Tuesday's memorial service. Her body will then be brought back here to Chicago for a service that is still being planned.

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