It ended with a note of hope and a short video of Hannah singing the song Tomorrow from the musical Annie.
“Now is the time to mourn, but in some time tomorrow, there will be joy,” said Capt. David Ward, a chaplain for the 297th Military Intelligence Battalion.
The song was one that several hundred volunteers sang last weekend as they searched the woods around Hannah’s home at Cypress Circle on the Army post, hoping to get her attention. The autistic girl had walked away barefoot from her home last Saturday evening, and her body was found about 3:15 p.m. Sunday in Soil Erosion Lake.
Maj. Gen. Alan Lynn, the commanding general of Fort Gordon, joined in the search. Hannah’s mother, Lauren Sackman, told him the sight of so many people singing another of Hannah’s favorite songs, I Love Candy, would have made her laugh.
“The power of Hannah’s spirit is the true miracle here,” Lynn said. “She touched hundreds of lives in a short time.”
Hannah’s father, Maj. John Sackman, moved to Fort Gordon about a month ago with his wife and their three children. The military analyst for the 297th has been sent on deployments, but he told his commander, Col. Barry Harris, that all of the combat training never prepared him for the loss of a child.
“It’s been very difficult,” Harris said.
Friday’s ceremony opened with a photo montage showing Hannah from birth to a toddler to a trick-or-treating girl with a bright smile.
Lt. Col. Reese Bell described her as a girl who memorized movie lines and enjoyed dressing like a princess. Purple was her favorite color, and she slept with a stuffed bear named Izzy. Pizza on Friday was a highlight of her week.
At the end of the ceremony, hundreds of purple balloons were released into a dark sky threatening rain.
“While we may have lost a little angel on Earth, heaven most assuredly has gained one,” Harris said.