- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 27, 2013

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — One of Angela Rivera’s saving graces after her husband was fatally shot at Fort Hood was his voicemail greeting. For years after Maj. Eduardo Caraveo was killed in 2009, Rivera had his cellphone kept active so she could call it and hear his voice telling her to leave a message.

Then one day, it disappeared. The cellphone carrier upgraded its systems and required users to tape a new greeting.

Rivera was among a dozen widows and soldiers who testified about their overwhelming grief and attempts at recovery on Monday as military prosecutors began trying to persuade a jury that Maj. Nidal Hasan deserves a death sentence.

Several more victims’ relatives were testifying Tuesday, including Cheryll Pearson, who sobbed when shown a photo of her son, Pfc. Michael Pearson, hugging her at his graduation.

“We always wanted to see who he was going to become. Now that was taken away from us,” Pearson told jurors.

Witnesses recalled the litany of moments, large and small, that remind them of what they lost: a voicemail greeting, a box of photos or the thought of a daughter’s lonely walk down the aisle one day.

The jury of 13 military officers must be unanimous to hand down a rare military death sentence against Hasan, who was convicted last week of killing 13 people and wounding more than 30 others at the Texas military base.

Now in the trial’s penalty phase, prosecutors are trying to prove an aggravating factor and present evidence to show the severity of Hasan’s rampage.

Many of those who testified Monday talked about their biggest fear in the long hours after the shooting in the early afternoon of Nov. 5, 2009: the appearance of two soldiers at their doorstep, meaning their husband, parent or child was dead. Some said they waited more than 12 hours, after trying in vain to call whatever phone numbers they could find.

Rivera described driving to the airport immediately after the shooting to pick up relatives. Her young son, John Paul, saw the airport and wondered if they were going to get his father.

Ms. Rivera, how do you explain to a 2-year-old the concept of death?” asked Col. Mike Mulligan, the lead prosecutor.

“I couldn’t do it,” Rivera replied, adding that a therapist later helped her explain what happened.

Rivera identified her husband’s former cellphone carrier as Sprint. On Tuesday, Sprint spokeswoman Roni Singleton confirmed to The Associated Press that the carried upgraded its system and required customers to tape a new greeting. Singleton said she was checking to see if the old greeting could be recovered.

When Cindy Seager heard initial reports of a shooting at Fort Hood, she drove home hoping that she wouldn’t see an unexpected car on her street. There wasn’t one when she arrived.

But two officers came to her door at around 1 a.m., about 12 hours after the shooting. Her husband, Capt. Russell Seager, was dead.

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