Column: 3 Lessons Our Politicians Should Learn From Fort Hood
As with all Americans, my wife, Gena, and I had our hearts broken again last Wednesday as we heard about another killing spree at Fort Hood, Texas, in which four people died and 16 more were injured at the U.S. Army's largest active-duty installation.
Chelsea Schilling, WorldNetDaily's commentator editor and journalist extraordinaire, reported shortly after the tragedy: "The shooter, identified as 34-year-old Ivan Lopez, is among the dead. Lopez reportedly died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound," but only after being confronted by a courageous female military police officer in the parking lot. (Interestingly, it was also a female cop who felt responsible for thwarting the Fort Hood gunman in 2009. Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 people — the deadliest attack on a domestic military base in U.S. history.)
Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, III Corps commander at Fort Hood, said the shooter last week was a soldier who was under evaluation for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Tragically, Lopez tipped from one mental health extreme to the other.
The New York Times reported: "On March 1, the same day he purchased the .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol he used in the attack, Specialist Lopez wrote an especially angry and vaguely threatening post. 'My spiritual peace has all gone away, I am full of hate, I believe now the devil is taking me. I was robbed last night and I'm sure it was two flacos. Green light and thumbs down. It's just that easy.'"
If there is confusion on a few fronts of combat, one thing is very clear: The Obama administration hasn't learned jack from the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard last September or the Fort Hood massacres in 2009 and last week. So let me help.
First, the White House needs to pull its head out of the sands of war denial and delusion. If the 2009 Fort Hood massacre wasn't labeled by the Obama administration as "terror," we can expect it to neutralize last week's tragic shooting, as well.
There's a reason former Defense Secretary Robert Gates labeled Obama the duck-and-dodge commander in chief in his book "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War." Gates described Obama this way: "I thought: The president doesn't trust his commander ... doesn't believe in his own strategy and doesn't consider the war to be his. For him, it's all about getting out."
And a new poll from The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that only 42 percent of military veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan said they believe that Obama is a "good commander in chief of the military." Forty-eight percent said he is not. In comparison, 65 percent of veterans said President George W. Bush was a good commander in chief.
The president doesn't understand war or our warriors, but that shouldn't stop him from standing up for them and continually fighting for their welfare on and off the combat field.
Second, the U.S. must do more to help treat, transition and better acclimate returning service members from the battlefield instead of throwing them to the lions of PTSD.
USA Today just ran an article on the subject, saying:
"About 1,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan war era are diagnosed each week with post-traumatic stress disorder and more than 800 with depression, according to (Department of Veterans Affairs) statistics.
"The Pentagon said Thursday that more than 155,000 U.S. troops have PTSD and that more than three-quarters of them are combat veterans.
"The disorder is characterized by symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, emotional numbness or hyper-vigilance that follow a traumatic experience. The symptoms persist, becoming more severe rather than going away and lasting longer than a month, said Paula Schnurr, acting executive director at the VA's National Center for PTSD."
Third, junk the gun-free zones on military bases. WND's Matt Barber wrote:
"Notice a trend here? What do Sandy Hook Elementary, Aurora Colorado's Century 16 theatre, Columbine, Fort Hood No. 1 and Fort Hood No. 2 all have in common? They're all 'gun-free zones.'
"Oh, that rather than 'gun-free zone,' each of these terror sites had a sign reading: 'Staff heavily armed and trained. Any attempts to harm those herein will be met with deadly force.'
"Might some of those beautiful souls have yet died before one or more well-armed good guys could take out the well-armed bad guys? Perhaps. But how many precious lives could have been saved?"
Between January 2009 and September 2013, 14 mass shootings took place in public spaces that were so-called "gun-free zones." In 13 mass shootings, military officers or law enforcement personnel were targeted, injured or killed while responding.
Ryan Lott, son of Fox News commentator John Lott, was recently back from a tour in Afghanistan and stationed at Fort Hood when he heard the shooter's shots this past Wednesday from just two blocks away.
"Ironically," John Lott wrote, "my son is a concealed handgun permit holder. He can carry a concealed handgun whenever he is off the Fort Hood base so that he can protect himself and others. But on the base he and his fellow soldiers are defenseless."
Instead of protecting others, soldiers surrounding the murder spree can do nothing but run and hide. Schilling reported, "Soldiers began jumping over fences to escape the attacker" while sirens sounded across the post. A warning blared: "Close your windows! Seek shelter immediately!"
True, there are military police guarding the entrances of posts, but like public law enforcement, they can't be in all places all the time, Lott additionally noted. And by the time they are called and respond, it's often too late.
Why is it that we trust our service members to bear arms in foreign lands to protect themselves and others but we won't allow them to have concealed permits on U.S. military bases on American soil for the purpose of protecting themselves and others? We trust them in combat but not at the coffee bar on a military base?
Schilling, who joined the Army at 17 and received the exceptional designation of expert marksman three times, wrote an email the night of the second Fort Hood massacre: "I am heartbroken over the latest mass shooting at Fort Hood. I'm saddened by the condition of our men and women coming home with psychological trauma, and I'm outraged that Fort Hood is a gun-free zone. I was part of the 1st Cavalry Division there several years ago, and what I wouldn't give to be on that post with a concealed firearm tonight to help stop this brutal massacre."
I pray that the White House will finally learn its lessons and make sure someone is there next time to prevent any more epically senseless casualties of our combat heroes on U.S. soil.