Soldier injured at Fort Hood offers thanks
Supporters gathered outside Rochester’s Elks Lodge to greet Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler and his fiancée, Jessica Hansen, as they arrived Tuesday night.
While it was planned as a way for Zeigler and Hansen to thank others, about 250 friends, family, politicians and community members filled the lodge to show continued support for the soldier, who was injured Nov. 5 in the shootings at the Fort Hood army base in Texas.
"With all the extra support, we’ve been able to focus on getting him better," Hansen said. "It really has made a huge difference in his recovery, and I get to see that every day."
Zeigler was shot four times, including once in the head, and is the only survivor of the shooting still in the hospital. Thirteen were killed and 30 were injured.
Hansen is a Rochester native, and she brought Zeigler here for treatment at the Mayo Clinic. He was admitted to Saint Marys Hospital on June 2.
Since then, his doctors at the Mayo made a few small changes that have made a huge difference, Hansen said. Recently, Zeigler was able to move his left arm on his own — doctors initially told him his left side would be permanently immobile.
The event was for Zeigler and Hansen to say thank you for all the support they've received in Rochester.
"The experience has been great," Hansen said.
"It’s incredible," Zeigler added.
Initially, Zeigler and Hansen had planned to leave Rochester this week, but now they plan to stay longer.
In the next few weeks, Zeigler will continue rehab and will transition to outpatient care, Hansen said. And in the next month or so the two plan to go back to Fort Hood, she said.
Although the couple wanted to take the time to thank the community for their help, attendees still focused on standing behind the injured soldier and his loved ones.
Harriet the bald eagle was available for photo opportunity and state Sen. Dave Senjem read a statement of support from Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
"Tonight was all about them," said Dana Johns, a member of the Elks and chairman of the group's veteran's committee.