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Mother flies to wounded son’s side at Fort Hood

By Staff | Nov 7, 2009

The mother of a soldier shot three times by the Fort Hood gunman was on her way to Texas Friday night, thanks to the initiative of Captain John “GiddyUp” Bunch, the founder of “Operation Open Arms.”
Roxanne Johnson of Punta Gorda flew out at 6:55 p.m. to be near her 21-year-old son, Justin Johnson. This was made possible after Bunch decided to by-pass regular channels to get her to her son’s bedside as quickly as possible. The mother is a veteran herself.
“I called Congressman (Thomas) Rooney of Punta Gorda,” Bunch said, “and I called Sen. (Bill) Nelson’s office. I was told we first needed to sign releases, we needed to do this and we needed to do that. After I called their offices, I decided it was best to take it upon myself to act as any reasonable person would to get this done. I called the airline.”
Bunch did not want to waste any time to get the mother near her wounded son.
“He was hit three times, in the chest, in the stomach and in the foot by a deranged Muslim terrorist disguised as a U.S. Army doctor (whom) I think in his heart is a Muslim extremist protesting the war,” said Bunch, who is a Marine veteran.
Officials say the gunman is Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a psychiatrist, who killed 13 and wounded 30 of his fellow soldiers.
The army has identified no ties to extremists and the American Muslim community has condemned his alleged actions.
Bunch, citing news accounts, said many “red flags” had been raised by Hasan’s talking to other doctors and in emails to indicate the Army-trained doctor was against the war, and there had been reports that he needed to be released.
“But they let him stay,” Bunch said.
Johnson is a 2006 Graduate of Charlotte High School. During his alma mater’s game Friday night there was a minute of silence to wish him a speedy recovery.
While available funds are decidedly low, Operation Open Arms is paying for the mother’s round trip, plus all the cost of a rental car and for reasonable housing and meals. Her son is in “guarded condition,” according to Bunch.
“We have 170 sponsors who do everything for our troops,” he said. “This is not the first time. Dec. 8, 2007, Danny Beougher came home from Iraq; he was hit and killed by a drunk driver two miles from home.”
Bunch is a well-known professional fishing guide who makes his home on Pine Island. He also is a writer, contributing to many publications, including the Pine Island Eagle, one of the Breeze Newspapers weekly newspapers.
Operation Open Arms is registered public charity and contributions are tax deducible.
The organization and its numerous business contributors provide soldiers on R&R leave from war zones with various services including free fishing trips, meals, accommodations and more.
Operation Open Arms also was the first organization to offer returning troops PTSD counseling confidentially and for free, and was featured for its efforts on The Today Show.
Donations to OOA to help this local mother or to support the program may be sent to OOA, Po Box 101, St James City, FL, 33956
OOA has no paid staff and founder John Bunch takes no money.
Volunteers are always needed and welcome; call 239-283-8838