By Rose L. Thayer
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD — As Maintenance Troop, Regimental Support Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, was preparing to leave Iraq last August, Capt. Robert McClelland said he looked at the wall adjacent to his office with one thought.
Painted on the wall was a memorial the unit’s soldiers created to honor Staff Sgt. Quadi Hudgins, 26, and Staff Sgt. Christian Garcia, 30, who were killed when a rocket hit the doorstep of their living quarters at Contingency Operating Base Kalsu in southern Iraq on April 2, 2011.
“We can’t leave that here,” recalled the troop commander. “This mural meant too much to these soldiers and our unit to leave it behind, just to be painted over or given back to the locals. What had before been a mere concrete wall had now become a cherished monument.”
So the troop found a way to ship the more than 18-foot tall, 13,000-pound wall to Fort Hood.
It was formally dedicated as part of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment Museum during a ceremony Wednesday, and is the only exhibit of its kind at Fort Hood.
The left half of the wall displays the New Orleans Saints football team symbol with a pair of boxing gloves hanging from it to remember Hudgins. The gloves bear the name of his daughter, Nyima.
“It describes him so well,” said Ashley Hudgins, his widow. “New Orleans is where he’s from and he repped where he grew up. He had it tattooed on him. As far as boxing goes, that was second nature to him.”
Even putting Nyima’s name on the gloves was something unique to Staff Sgt. Hudgins, she said. He would write her name on everything, including his boots and his helmet.
“That was his world, his baby,” said Ashley.
The right side of the wall depicts the flag of the Philippines and the letter “G,” which was what everyone called Staff Sgt. Garcia, said his widow, Angela Garcia. He was a native of the Philippines.
“He knew everything was about his heritage,” she said. “When our first daughter was born, he even tried to teach her the language.”
As he watched the wall come to life, McClelland said he knew it was about more than commemorating two soldiers — it helped the unit heal.
“This was my unit coming together and becoming a band of brothers and sisters in arms, now more than ever dedicated to the mission of serving their nation and defending freedom,” he said.
Scott Hamric, museum director, said he hopes the wall will remind visitors disassociated with the war that there are those who have made sacrifices.
“It serves to remind them that there are prices to be paid for our freedoms,” he said.
Angela Garcia said she passes by the wall often and sees people standing by it.
“It makes me feel good,” she said. “Like they are remembering him.”