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Dowagiac’s ‘Pvt. Hartman’ answers Fort Hood roll call

Published 9:29am Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dowagiac Daily News

With President Barack Obama and top U.S. military brass looking on, “Pvt. Hartman” answered roll call Tuesday.

Derrek Hartman, 21, grew up in Dowagiac.

Derrek is the son of Kim and Jeff Hartman of Keene Avenue, the grandson of Ken and Mable Hartman of Marcellus Highway and of Richard and Joyce Pond of Joy Drive and the great-grandson of Marvel DeGraff.

Roll call is an Army tradition.

Sergeants major routinely call the unit’s roster after battle to account for all soldiers under the command.

Hartman only joined the Army seven months ago in April, so he and his family are not sure how he was selected for “quite an honor” on national television of taking part in the Fort Wood, Texas, memorial service for 13 people – 12 soldiers, including Plymouth High School graduate Staff Sgt. Justin DeCrow, and one civilian – massacred last Thursday, Nov. 5.

Hartman, after completing basic training in North Carolina, is assigned to a unit which just returned from Afghanistan, so isn’t expecting to be deployed for a year.

Hartman, in a brief phone interview from Texas Tuesday evening, allowed that being a part of the somber pageantry was a “little exciting,” but “it’s not about me.”

He only found out Monday morning from his platoon sergeant, but thought initially he was being assigned to a “regular detail.”

On Nov. 5, when the 13, parents of 19, were slain, he was driving to a defensive driving class when he found the gates blocked.

With Fort Hood, the nation’s largest military post, in lockdown, “My mom knew before me” what happened by following developments on CNN.

President Obama said, “In an age of selfishness, they embody responsibility. In an era of division, they call upon us to come together. In a time of cynicism, they remind us of who we are as Americans.”

“Twisted logic” drove a gunman to open fire inside a Fort Hood medical facility, the president said. “No faith justifies these murderous and craven acts. No just and loving god looks upon them with favor. For what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice – in this world, and the next.”

Civilian police shot accused gunman Maj. Nidal M. Hasan.

He is reported hospitalized in stable condition.

Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, post commander, said it is easier to accept casualties on foreign battlefields, where Fort Hood lost 545 soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

“We never expected to pay such a high price at home,” Cone said.

At the conclusion of the memorial service, the president and his wife, Michelle, walked along a line of boots and photos.

Obama placed a commander-in-chief’s coin before each display.

The president and first lady then visited San Antonio’s Darnall Army Medical Center to meet with soldiers wounded in the attack.

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