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Local vets reflect on tragedy

By Staff | Nov 6, 2009

A military officer and psychiatrist opened fire Thursday afternoon at the Fort Hood U.S. Army base in Texas, killing 12 and wounding 31.
Authorities wounded the gunman, identified as 39-year-old Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, and temporarily took two other soldiers into custody following the rampage, the Associated Press reported.
Local veterans reacted to the news with shock, as well as prayers for the dead, the wounded and their families.
U.S. Army 4th Infantry Division Ryan Barna, who served in Iraq, was stationed at Fort Hood for five years. He was last there Sept. 20.
Barna’s first reaction to the shooting was “being worried about the guys who are still there.” He said he talked to enough of them, though, that he knows they are OK.
Barna said he cannot speculate as to why the accused shooter, or any others suspected of being involved, did it.
“Something was seriously wrong with those individuals,” he said.
Barna added that to fully understand their motives, he would have to know how many times those involved had been deployed.
He said most of the men and women stationed at the base are under 25, but there are some in their 40s and 50s.
Barna said he is very familiar with the facility where the shooting took place — the base’s Soldier Readiness Center.
He said soldiers have to go through a separation and readjustment program at the center before they are deployed overseas and after they return. It takes all day and can be quite taxing, Barna said.
“My thoughts are with the families for those who were injured and killed,” he said.
Capt. John “Giddyup” Bunch, founder of Operation Open Arms, a Pine Island based military outreach program that offers free and discounted services to active duty personnel on leave, as well as mental health services, said the stress of serving likely had some role in the shooting.
Bunch said 75 percent of the military are not qualified to serve.
Combine that with multiple deployments, and tragedies can happen, he said.
“I would almost guarantee you that they have been to Afghanistan or Iraq via multiple deployment and are not getting enough time off,” Bunch said.
He said that perhaps with their fears, the involved soldier or soldiers, lost it.
“Nothing surprises me about any catastrophic event that happens to our troops because of the pressure they are under,” Bunch said. “What is going on right now is a combination of the perfect storm involving our military.
“What’s sad is that all the people that have served in World War II, Vietnam and the first Gulf War have no idea what our present day military men are facing,” he said.
Bunch encourages family and friends of military personnel to let those serving know that there is support available to help them deal with issues and stress they may be facing.
U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, also addressed the shooting.
“My heart goes out to the victims and their families in today’s senseless tragedy at Fort Hood,” he said in a prepared statement. “I hope the criminals responsible are brought swiftly to justice so the victims and their families can find peace.
“Mary and I are keeping our brave soldiers and their families in our thoughts and prayers during this extremely difficult time,” Mack said of he and his wife, U.S. Rep. Mary Bono Mack of California.
U.S. Navy Harry H. Beeman, who served in World War II, said that after he heard about the shooting, he knew it was some form of a disgruntled serviceman.
“It has to be a soldier,” he said, adding that he was still shocked.
Beeman said that after soldiers have been overseas, sometimes their mental health is affected.
“It is someone who is having problems being stable,” he said, “(which) is a shame.
“We all need to pray for those who were killed and who were wounded,” Beeman said. “It is a time for all of us to pray for all those who are involved.”
Another local veteran was too upset to comment on Thursday’s incident.