Two Chicago natives are among those killed when Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly went on a rampage at the large Texas Army base, killing 13 and wounding 31.
Gov. Pat Quinn was just leaving an event promoting care packages for the military on Friday when he was told of the two Illinois casualties.
"All of our service members are volunteers," said Quinn. "They voluntarily enter the military service. They understand that they are defending democracy, and to lose their lives on an American military base is particularly saddening."
Francheska Velez, 21, had just finished a tour in Iraq and returned to Ft. Hood three months pregnant. The Army granted Velez, a 2006 graduate of Kelvyn Park High School, a maternity leave of absence and she was set to return to Chicago in just two weeks.
"The world collapsed on me. At that moment, the world ended," said her father, Juan Guillermo-Velez. He likened his daughter's death on U.S. soil after serving her country to a slap in the face.
"She was a great girl. Always happy with a smile (and) enjoyed being in the service," said her aunt, Margarita Montero.
The family spent the day comforting each other and hung an American flag in front of the home in Velez's honor.
Private First Class Michael Pearson, 21, a native of Bolingbrook, was also among those killed.
Pearson was shot three times, taking bullets in the spine and chest, the Chicago Tribune reports.
An official list of victims has not been released yet, but Pearson’s parents, Sheryll and Jeff, received a call from their son’s sergeant at Ft. Hood telling them Mike had been shot and was in surgery.
Hours later, an Army surgeon called and told the Pearsons that Mike had passed away.
"I was just shocked because I was getting ready for him -- I was preparing for him to come home for Christmas, and I knew he would probably be deployed in January," Sheryll Pearson said.
Pearson was a graduate of Bolingbrook High School. He worked at a furniture company before enlisting in the military.
His mother told the Tribune that she had spoken with him two days before to make plans for the holidays.
The family is still in disbelief.
"His father is still in shock and very angry," Sheryll Pearson told the Tribune. "We're all very angry."
Two brothers, Jason and Chris Craig, and a sister, Julie Craig along with his parents, survive Mike. No word on funeral arrangements.
Sen. Dick Durbin on Friday sympathized with those who are questioning how the tragedy unfolded.
"Some critical questions have to be asked about the security at a military base, and how a person could bring in a semi-automatic or an automatic weapon and in just a short order manage to kill 12 or 13 people and injure 28 others," Durbin said.
Two soldiers from Wisconsin were killed. Russell Seager, 51, of Mount Pleasant and 29-year-old Sgt. Amy Krueger, of Kiel, both died.
Seven additional people from the Midwest were wounded in the attack. They include Nathan Hewitt from Lafayette, Ind.; Ray Saucedo from Greenville (Grand Rapids area), Mich.; Keara Bono from Twin Cities/Kansas City; Joy Clark from Des Moines, Iowa; Amber Bahr from Round Lake (Milwaukee area), Wis.; Dorothy Carskadon of Madison, Wis.; and Grant Moxon of Lodi, Wis.