Shoua Her takes great pride in the history of military service in her husband's family. His father, grandfather and two great uncles fought the Viet Cong alongside the CIA in what's known as the "Secret War" in Laos.
Her husband, Kham See Xiong, arrived in the United States as a young refugee with his family. In 2008, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and readied for a combat tour in Afghanistan. Another man in the family would be defending America, the country that had given them a second chance at life after they fled their communist homeland.
But everything changed on a sunny November day in 2009 in Texas when an Army psychiatrist jumped up on a desk at Fort Hood, yelled "Allahu akbar!" and unleashed 100 rounds from two laser-sighted pistols. Pfc. Kham See Xiong was one of 13 people who were killed; another 32 were wounded.
Shoua Her coped with the tragedy as best as any wife possibly could. She, like the survivors and families of other victims of that day, took solace in the words of President Barack Obama.
"As commander-in-chief, there's no greater honor but also no greater responsibility for me than to make sure that the extraordinary men and women in uniform are properly cared for," Obama said after the shootings.
But as the months wore on and the name of suspect Nidal Malik Hasan faded from headlines, their grief was compounded by other emotions stemming from the unusual circumstances of this case. The suspect was a U.S. Army major. Yet he said he acted to defend America's enemies. The killings occurred on the largest Army base in America. Yet the victims considered it a battleground on that day.
They learned that authorities had failed to respond to red flags about Hasan's Islamist beliefs. As the trial was delayed by legal wrangling -- including Hasan's decision to represent himself, and disagreement over whether he could defy military regulations and wear a full-length beard in court -- many of the Fort Hood victims began to believe military and federal authorities were neglecting their needs.
The victims had sought closure with Hasan's court-martial, which began last Tuesday. But as they prepared to face the self-admitted killer, their nearly four-year ordeal festered like an open wound. They believe they've paid not just an emotional price but a financial one, as well.
They were reliving not just their sorrow but a deep sense of neglect, even betrayal, by their own government.
Xiong's father, Chor Xiong, felt so abandoned that he penned a letter to a Defense Department official.
"The government makes so many promises, but cannot keep them. All we are asking for is some assistance and for justice to be served," he wrote. "I have lost all hopes since his death."
Some survivors have already testified in court about what they witnessed that day. Family members of those who died are expected to have their say as each is allowed to make a victim impact statement.
Kham See Xiong's widow will represent the Xiong family.
"I am anxious. I am overwhelmed. I am scared at the same time," she says.
She wants the world to know what it has been like to raise three children on her own. And what it has been like for a proud military family to feel let down by that same military.
Anger and disappointment
Shoua Her began dating Kham See Xiong in the eighth grade in St. Paul, Minnesota, home to a large community of ethnic Hmongs from Laos. She loved everything about him, especially his humor. She never dated anyone else and in 2004, after they graduated from Community of Peace Academy, they were married.
Xiong enlisted in the Army -- two of his brothers are also in the military -- and in the summer of 2009 moved his wife and three little children to Fort Hood, where they lived in military housing off post. Xiong's unit was deploying to Afghanistan and he was standing in line to get his vaccinations and medical checks on November 5, 2009.
The family had no cable television at home. His wife was outside playing with their kids when she got word of the shootings from a neighbor. She frantically texted her husband but got no reply. She knew something terrible had happened when two Army personnel showed up at her door at 3 in the morning.
Everything after that is a blur in her mind.
She moved back to St. Paul a week later; her youngest son was only 10 months old when his father was gunned down.
She tells her kids stories about their father. How he liked to fish for white bass and walleye in nearby rivers and lakes. One time, he was so excited about going fishing that he forgot he left his tackle box on the roof of the car. Husband and wife laughed when they pulled out onto the street and the tackle box went flying.
She tells her kids that Daddy is now an angel in heaven. One day, they will be reunited. She forces herself to not dwell on the tragedy.
"I try not to think of it all the time. I just want to focus on my kids."
But for the Xiongs and the other Fort Hood survivors and families, it wasn't just about the grief. Anger and disappointment set in as the controversy surrounding Hasan kept growing.