April 3, 2014
Wednesday’s shooting at Fort Hood quickly brought to the minds of many in Richmond County the incident nearly five years ago in which Rockingham native Alonzo Lunsford Jr. was shot at the same Texas Army base.
Lunsford, in November 2009 a staff sergeant and combat medic in the Army Reserve, worked at the facility’s Soldier Readiness Center when Army Maj. Nidal Hassan shot and killed 13 people, including 12 soldiers, and wounded 32 others.
Lunsford was shot seven times while his 6-foot-9 frame tried to shield fellow soldiers from Hassan, who stood only a few feet away during the attack.
To be sure, the incident has rarely been far from Lunsford’s radar. Despite the physical and emotional setbacks caused by the incident, Lunsford continues to keep an eye on updates from Hassan’s case. Only six weeks ago. Lunsford posted a news report to his personal Facebook page that showed the military had classified the shooting as workplace violence.
Such a designation, according to one source in the report, is “offensive” to those who survived the attack —as there is some evidence, including a series of email exchanges, between Hassan and known terrorists. One independent report shows that a key terrorist leader had given his “permission” for Hassan to carry out his attack at Fort Hood.
Details aside, at least for the moment, both shootings leave the same immediate result — the same feelings of hopelessness and desperation for the family members of those killed, and a long, angry road to recovery for those wounded in the attacks.
At the time of the shooting, Lunsford was a married father of five. The attack left him without the use of his left eye. He also has difficulty walking and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
In 2009, at least 35 families felt the effects of the shooting. This time, 19 families — three killed and 16 others wounded — are left reeling, and wondering how the system designed to protect them failed them so. These people live across the country in towns very similar to Rockingham.
In the big-picture view of things, it brings to the forefront the issue of mental health and today’s soldier. There will be countless media reports that quote officials as they call for increased treatment, accessibility and other improvements.
Let’s hope our leaders are paying attention and provide more than lip service to the need to get our soldiers help.