Christopher Royal doesn’t want the memory of the Nov. 5, 2009, Fort Hood shooting to fade into history.
On the first anniversary of the shooting, while those who died were honored, the 32 people who were shot yet survived were not even mentioned, said Royal, a chief warrant officer-3 assigned to III Corps. Royal, who was inside the Soldier Readiness Processing Center that day, was shot twice.
He called the lack of attention given to those who were shot a “slap in the face.”
To that end, he started the 32 Still Standing Foundation, a support group for survivors of the shooting and their families. It’s one of two groups — both founded by survivors and victims’ families — formed in the three years following the shooting.
The other is the Coalition of Fort Hood Heroes, which made headlines a few weeks ago when it released a video calling on the Defense Department to classify the shooting as an “act of terror.”
32 Still Standing
Royal’s group is a nonprofit charity that aims to provide financial support for survivors of the shooting and their families. If a family is behind on an electric or other bill, the foundation will help pay, he said.
Royal launched a website, 32stillstanding.com, for the foundation and gears his fundraising efforts around public running events. Last year, he organized a run in his home state of Alabama. This year, he’s running from Fort Hood to the state Capitol in Austin. Next year, he wants to run in Washington, D.C., and finish on the steps of the White House. He has a goal to run in all 50 states.
It might seem ambitious, but for Royal, it stems from a desire to help people that grew following the shooting. He wants to expand the loosely organized foundation into an organization that can help soldiers and their families nationwide, whether they were involved in the shooting or not.
“I think there’s a need,” Royal said. “We’re hurting as a country.”
He said there are good programs available now, but more programs can’t hurt.
While 32 Still Standing might have a high priority to help victims of shootings, Royal said he would like to see it open up to help people dealing with various forms of post-traumatic stress disorder, obesity or other ailments affecting the country.
“I’ve never had a passion to love people the way I do now,” he said.
32 Still Standing has a board, but still has a way to go before it can help the people in the same way as Royal’s vision.
“We’re still not getting the support. We’re not getting the donations, so to say,” he said.
Coalition of Fort Hood Heroes
Coalition member Shawn Manning, an Army Reserve staff sergeant from Washington state who was shot six times, is in the process of getting a medical discharge from the military.
He said his medical benefits hinge largely on how the Defense Department classifies the shooting.
With the shooting’s current classification of “workplace violence,” the injured soldiers are not entitled to the same medical benefits as if the wounds were combat related.
Manning and others injured in the shooting want it reclassified as an act of terror, which would pave the way for Purple Hearts to be awarded and other benefits.
After the group released the video in late October, political leaders and others said they would become involved.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the shooting should be officially declared an act of terrorism.
“I respectfully disagree with the Department of Defense decision,” he said in a statement. “Based upon what we already know, this episode fits squarely into the realm of an act of terrorism.”
Several congressmen and Gov. Rick Perry have announced their support for the coalition which formed about a year ago, as well as celebrities, including Charlie Daniels, Hank Williams Jr. and Donald Trump.
“We came on board together to try to get something done,” Manning said. “It’s important to get this reclassified and call it what it is.”
And if we’re not going to call it what it is, “then it could happen again,” he said.
Contact Jacob Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7468