At least two former soldiers who were wounded in the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting at Fort Hood said their lives were drastically changed due to the shooting, and the fight for full benefits still isn’t over, even though it’s been more than six years since the attack.
Shawn Manning and Alonzo Lunsford Jr. — both former staff sergeants who were shot multiple times by Nidal Hasan — said despite earning the federal Purple Heart medals last April, their struggles with the government’s lack of labeling their wounds as “combat related” remain.
They said the pain they live with is an everyday reminder of what happened.
“I just had surgery last summer to remove a bullet out of my thigh and a bullet out of my back,” said Manning, who in addition to physical pain, also deals with post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from the shooting.
“I still have a bullet in my back,” Lunsford said. “It cant be removed because it’s so close to my spine.”
He, too, has complications from lingering pain and PTSD, as well as a traumatic brain injury from a bullet that hit close to one of his eyes.
The fight for benefits
“We’re still fighting for benefits,” said Manning, who now lives near Seattle, Wash. He was shot six times by Hasan.
Both Manning and Lunsford said as they continue to seek treatment for the various physical and emotional wounds, government medical officials continually fail to acknowledge their wounds as combat related.
They said if their injuries and medical paperwork were labeled as resulting from combat, it would put their medical care on a “higher tier,” leading to shorter wait times for appointments or future medical procedures.
“It’s all about accountability,” said Lunsford. “For it to be denied as such, it’s an embarrassment.”
Manning said he still has looming a physical evaluation board hearing in relation to his wounds from the shooting. That hearing has been on hold for almost a year.
‘We’re not the same people’
The pain, said the 40-year-old Manning, “will get worse as I get older.”
Lunsford, 49, said he’s on a variety of medications to deal with the pain and stress.
“Meds to sleep. Meds to stay awake. Meds for everything,” he said. “We’re not the same people we were prior to the shooting.”
Hasan was found guilty in August 2013 on 13 counts of premeditated murder, and was sentenced to death. He is currently on death row at Fort Leavenwoth, Kan., awaiting appeals.
Manning said he’s looking forward to the day when the wounds are correctly labeled as combat-related, and he won’t have to fight for benefits any more.
“That would be the last piece to this,” he said.