Mary Muntean of Effingham, Ill., told The Associated Press that she was still celebrating that reunion when she got a call telling her that her son, U.S. Army Sgt. Timothy Owens, was killed Wednesday in the attack at Fort Hood. He was one of four soldiers - including the gunman - killed. Another 16 were wounded.
Muntean told the AP she has heart problems and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Her 54-year-old daughter sought her out, and the two met on March 23, she said.
"She finds one child and loses another," said Betty Goodwin, Muntean's niece and Owens' cousin.
Sitting on her recliner on Wednesday, Muntean saw news of the attack at Fort Hood on television.
Unable to reach her son, she called his new wife, Billie Owens, who first said he was in the hospital. Before long, Owens' wife called back, and Muntean had her worst fears confirmed.
"She said, 'Mom, I want to tell you how sorry I am. Tim's gone,'" Muntean said. "I broke down. I'm 77 years old and I can't hardly take this."
Owens' cousin, Glen Welton of Effingham, said Owens grew up with military dreams.
"He was one of those kids who wanted to wear camouflage and wanted to wear bomber jackets and sunglasses," said Welton, himself a National Guard veteran of Iraq. "It took him a few years before he got himself in."
Owens dropped out of high school in 1995, according to his mother and school records. But she said he earned his GED diploma after joining the Army in 2004.
Welton said he ran into Owens last year at a funeral and the two figured out they'd served in Iraq at the same time. Welton was there from 2005-06.
A photo from that day shows Welton with his arm around Owens, who wore his Army dress uniform, including a beret, and a pair of dark sunglasses.
"He had grown into a man. The military had made him a complete man," Goodwin said. "I sure know he cleaned up pretty with his uniform."
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