One year ago, the daily routine of Fort Hood was shattered by a deadly mass shooting perpetrated by one of its own soldiers.
On April 2, 2014, Spc. Ivan A. Lopez opened fire after an argument about leave. He fired multiple rounds from a .45-caliber handgun both inside and outside of multiple on-post buildings, killing three people and injuring 16 before he was confronted by military police and shot himself.
It was the second mass shooting at the post in five years, but the day began like any other for 1st Lt. John Arroyo Jr.
“I was a planner,” said Arroyo, a former Green Beret who had three deployments under his belt when he arrived at Fort Hood. “When I walked out the door, I had all the plans in the world.”
Arroyo was shot in the parking lot of his brigade headquarters. Lopez shot him in the throat, a wound Arroyo said should have killed him.
“There’s no medical or clinical explanation of why I lived through that event,” he said.
Arroyo said he heard a voice telling him to get up. He was able to get himself to safety and survive the attack while warning others about the shooting.
The incident inspired Arroyo to start his own Christian ministry, called Second Chance Ministries, while he recovered at Brooke Army Medical Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.
“I know that God was there for me,” said Arroyo, who is still an active-duty soldier. “Now I believe that it is my duty to share what he did for me.”
Arroyo isn’t the only soldier speaking out about his experience on April 2, 2014.
Army Maj. Patrick Miller, of Allegany, N.Y., was shot in the stomach by Lopez after encountering him in an office building.
Despite his injury, Miller led several soldiers to safety in his office, and was later hailed as a hero for his actions.
Miller’s story and his recovery were documented on social media. Like Arroyo, Miller came out of the experience willing to share his story. In March, he returned to his hometown to speak at St. Bonaventure University.
According to a report by the Olean’s Times Herald, Miller’s message for those in attendance was simple.
“Bad things are going to happen in life, and it’s not what happens, but how you react,” he told the attendees. “We all have our stories, have our bloody noses and have all been put down. It’s what you do after and how you pick yourself up.”
While Arroyo and Miller have been the most visible of those wounded, they are far from the only soldiers on post who performed heroic actions during the shooting.
A Jan. 23 report on the shooting by the Army noted several such acts by those present, including the military police officer who confronted Lopez before he killed himself.
Another solider, whose name was redacted from the report, remained in her office with a mortally wounded solider, and provided direct aid until help arrived.
Some of those heroes included those who did not survive Lopez’s rampage. Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Ferguson was fatally wounded while he and other soldiers tried to barricade a door. Sgt. Timothy Owens, a counselor, was killed while attempting to calm Lopez during the shooting.
“Many other soldiers, military police and first responders — too numerous to recognize here — acted with courage and resolve,” wrote Lt. Gen. Joseph E. Martz, who led the team that created the report.
Many of those praised in the report may get awards or commendations. Shortly after the shooting, then-Fort Hood commander Lt. Gen. Mark Milley said there were “several instances here of clear heroism” during the shooting.
In July, the Army recognized 29 civilians, including employees of the Directorate of Emergency Services who worked as police officers, firefighters and 911 dispatchers at the time of the shooting, for their response to the crisis.
Fort Hood did not respond to requests asking if anyone else involved in the response to the shooting, including those wounded, would receive any medals or commendations.
On Wednesday, Army officials confirmed Arroyo would receive the Soldier’s Medal, the highest Army commendation for acts of valor in a noncombat situation.
Arroyo said Wednesday he was just grateful to have another day to be with his family and share his message with others.
“Tomorrow’s almost like a second birthday for me,” he said. “Every day I get a chance to wake up once again, and inhale another breath.”