Soldier’s mother: ‘He’s supposed to be safe’

Published 9:01 am Friday, November 6, 2009

FRANKLIN—Ana Stewart of Franklin is used to feeling nervous when her son, 21-year-old Christopher Padgett, is deployed with the U.S. Army to war zones.

She never thought she’d feel that same stress while he was “safe” at home.

Padgett is one of 50,000 residents of Fort Hood in Texas, where a soldier opened fire on a military processing center on Thursday, killing 11 people and wounding 31.

The gunman, identified as Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, 39, was injured.

Stewart said she got a quick phone call from her daughter-in-law, Melissa Padgett, just before authorities began clearing everyone off the base after the massacre.

“She said, ‘Hey mom, don’t panic, but cut on the news,” Stewart said.

Minutes later, she got a text message from her son, who works in the personnel office on base, that said, “Don’t panic. I’m OK. Love ya.”

Padgett, who attended Lakeland High School in Suffolk, joined the army when he was 17. He has been stationed at Fort Hood for two years.

He has been deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan for combat and was wounded this the summer during his last deployment to the latter.

“He was hit with a fragment of an (rocket-propelled grenade),” she said, adding that she always feared for his safety while he was overseas.

“I wasn’t suppose to worry about this right now,” she said about Thursday’s shooting. “He’s not in Iraq and he’s not in Afghanistan. He’s supposed to be safe.”

President Barack Obama echoed those sentiments and called the event a “horrific outburst of violence” while addressing the media Thursday evening from Washington.

“It is difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas,” he said. “It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an army base on American soil.”

Stewart said she was relieved that he son was OK, but her heart went out to the families and friends of the soldiers who were killed. They were reportedly at the Soldier Readiness Center, a place where troops go to prepare for overseas deployment.

“I feel very sorry for all of them,” she said. “These kids are tight. It is a tight group. They’re really, really, really close. Right now they are spazzing out trying to find out where their battle buddies are.”